Social Innovation

This Prime Minister wants you to come and live the American Dream - in Europe

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin arrives for the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium December 12, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman -

In Finland, strong social services allow everyone the chance to succeed. Image: REUTERS/Yves Herman

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  • People in Finland and other Nordic nations have a better chance of realizing the American Dream, according to Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
  • Citizens from any background can succeed and achieve positions of power in the country, she says.
  • Nordic countries dominate the top five positions in the World Economic Forum’s Global Social Mobility Index 2020.
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Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin attends a session at the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin addressed the audience at the 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Finland and its Nordic neighbours are the best places in the world to achieve the so-called American Dream. That’s according to Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, commenting on the US ideal that everyone should have the opportunity to realize their economic and social aspirations.

Speaking to The Washington Post at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos, the world’s youngest prime minister explained how the economic and social framework of Finland and its neighbours creates a land of opportunity for people to succeed.

"I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child no matter their background or the background of their families can become anything," she said.

Global, index scores
Nordic nations top the Global Social Mobility Index, which considers what a country can do holistically to foster relative social mobility for all citizens. Image: Global Social Mobility Index 2020

Top of the charts

When it comes to social mobility, Nordic nations reign supreme. Denmark topped the World Economic Forum’s Global Social Mobility Index 2020, ahead of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland. These countries lead the world in embodying the ideal of opportunity for everyone, regardless of wealth, background or status at birth.

The index benchmarks 82 of the world’s leading economies, identifying areas of improvement for policymakers to address so they can better boost social mobility and promote equality.

A key finding of the report is how most economies fail to create a framework that allows citizens to prosper, restricting people's ability to break out of poverty or improve their social and economic trajectory.

As human capital drives a country’s growth, this creates problems not only for individual citizens, but for the wider society and economy.

‘The new normal’

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Closing or reducing the social mobility gap helps break down societal and economic inequalities. In Nordic nations, the state gives people more equal access to quality and equal education, work opportunities and good working conditions, quality social protection and inclusive institutions.

“Hopefully, in the future, it's the new normal that we have people from all kinds of backgrounds making the decisions in powerful places,” Marin told the audience at the Forum’s Annual Meeting.

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Prime Minister Marin is, of course, a leading figure in one of those powerful places, and her government’s decisions play an important part in creating policies, practices and institutions that boost social mobility.

That’s not to say the country doesn’t still face challenges. There’s a shortage of men working in health care and social care, and more women are needed to fill tech jobs.

Addressing the need to strive for more equality, Marin said in Davos: “It’s not a women issue, it’s a people issue.

“We all have to fight each and every day for equality, for a better life.”

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