The area analysis of the new ‘welfare regions’: These new regions are divided into four groups based on regional differences, regional profile and population base

MDI carried out an analysis of the regional characteristics and regional profile of the new ‘welfare regions’ as they currently stand. The regions are compared in the analysis from the perspective of vitality, carrying capacity, morbidity and future demographic development. Based on the results, regional economic and demographic differences between the areas are significant. The biggest differences are in the conditions for the vitality of the regions, such as between the regions of Uusimaa and Eastern Finland.

Based on the results of the area analysis and profiling, the welfare regions can be divided into four groups. All regions of Uusimaa are in the group with the best characteristics ahead of Southwest Finland, Ostrobothnia and Pirkanmaa. In addition to regional differences, welfare regions differ significantly in terms of their population base where significant differences exist both in terms of the initial situation and in the projected future development.

Public debate has focused mainly on factors related to the future funding model, morbidity and the service needs of the new welfare regions. The aim of the ‘regional stress test’ was to enrich the overall picture of the regional profile of new welfare regions which is a key issue for their future success. The analysis was undertaken by MDI’s experts without an external assignment, says leading specialist Timo Aro.

To obtain a comprehensive picture, 24 key variables were selected, divided into four sub-indices, for the analysis. The key figures were carefully selected so that they can be used to draw conclusions both on actual developments and on estimates of future developments. All key figures were collected at the municipal level (294) and the welfare region level (21 + 1). After indexing, each welfare area received a value between 0 and 100 with four sub-indices and a total index, with zero being the weakest and 100 the best possible value.

Factors related to regional characteristics were strongly emphasised in the analysis. The analysis showed how large the initial differences between the new welfare areas are in terms of regional economic and demographic variables.

Welfare areas can be divided into four groups based on the results. The first group includes all five regions of Uusimaa. The second includes Southwest Finland, Ostrobothnia and Pirkanmaa. The third group includes seven regions from southern and coastal Finland while the fourth group also includes seven regions, mainly from eastern and northern Finland, notes specialist, Rasmus Aro.

In terms of the total municipal index, the highest rating was given to Kauniainen, Espoo, Helsinki, Kerava, Sipoo, Vantaa, Pirkkala, Turku, Tampere and Kirkkonummi. Among the 30 municipalities with the highest scores, only two (Eurajoki and Rauma) were located outside Uusimaa, Pirkanmaa, Southwest Finland or Ostrobothnia.

One of the core objectives of the ongoing social and health reform is to reduce disparities in well-being and health between regions and population groups. The large differences in the starting points of the welfare areas constitute one challenge for the practical implementation, guidance and continuity of social and health reform in the longer term. Regional differences between welfare areas, for example in terms of conditions and population base, increase their vulnerability.

Based on a Statistics Finland’s (2019) population forecast calculation, the population base will grow significantly in only three welfare areas (Vantaa-Kerava, Helsinki and Länsi-Uusimaa) and slightly in four regions (Central Uusimaa, Pirkanmaa, Eastern Uusimaa and Southwest Finland). The population is projected to decline in 15 welfare regions by 2040. In five welfare areas, the population is projected to shrink by as much as 10% in two decades, MDI’s expert team noted.