Two Finlands – Is Inequality Increasing?

The project Two Finlands – Is Inequality Increasing? (KASU) is funded by the Kone Foundation in 2015–2017 as a part of the Is Finland Becoming Polarized? programme of the Kone Foundation. In the Is Finland Becoming Polarized? projects, social scientists, photographic artists and journalists join their expertise together and, in cooperation, bring out an image of a Finland becoming polarised.

In the KASU project, the polarisation of the Finnish society in the 2010s is analysed from three points of view: experienced inequality, health and welfare differences and visual segregation. These themes are linked by the analysis of social distance between population groups through research and photography, as well as journalistic reporting. The project produces an overall picture of the status of Finnish society based on these three themes that reinforce each other and carries out cooperative endeavours with the media and draws up socio-political conclusions based on them.

The material used in the KASU project includes online material related to media journalism, collected together with the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, population data, samples collected from welfare failures (bread lines, drug addicts), as well as photographs about the everyday lives of Finns in different socio-economic positions. The analysis uses multivariate methods, data mining, content analysis and visual research methods.

The consortium led by the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) also includes two freelance journalists, the Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (DIAK) and the Union of Artist Photographers in Finland in cooperation with the Finnish Museum of Photography. The media partners of the project are the newspapers Helsingin Sanomat and Savon Sanomat (in cooperation with regional newspapers), the Kotimaa weekly magazine, and the Helsinki Deaconess Institute.

Analysing the status of the Finnish society requires cooperation between researchers from different disciplines, artists, and journalists, where the different parties respect each other and bring added value to the project together. The project’s multidisciplinary cooperation in itself is also a subject of study by an external reviewer.

The KASU project reveals structures in Finnish growth and employment policy that create inequality, and creates a reliable point of reference for assessing the social situation in Finland, a country soon celebrating its hundredth anniversary, and for redirecting social and public policy to a direction that creates more equality. Maria Ohisalo acts as the Project Manager.

In connection with the project, online news and discussion related to the increase of inequality are collected in a Facebook group called Eriarvoisuusvarasto (Inequality repository). The hashtags used for the project on Instagram and Twitter are #arjenkuvat (pictures of everyday life) and #kaksisuomea (two Finlands).

During the first year of the project, the ‘Arjen kuvat’ (Pictures of everyday life’) photography workshop has started, KASU has participated in the ‘Vaikuttamiskahvila’ (Impact café) event organised in Kuopio by the Kone Foundation and the Institute for Deliberative Democracy (DDI) with the theme of inequality, and among other things, the following publications that have sparked discussion have been published within the framework of the project in cooperation with researchers and journalists:

Helsingin Sanomat newspaper: HS:n suuri köyhyyskysely: Monien mielestä köyhyys on ihmisen oma syy

Turun Sanomat newspaper: Niemennokasta ei näe köyhän kansan notkelmaan

Viesti magazine of the Helsinki Deaconess Institute: Häpeää hyllyjen välissä.

Peer-reviewed scientific articles are also published during the project; examples include these articles published in the autumn of 2015:

Ohisalo, M., Laihiala, T. & Saari, J. (2015). Huono-osaisuuden ulottuvuudet ja kasautuminen leipäjonoissa. Yhteiskuntapolitiikka 2015

Ohisalo, M., Laihiala, T. & Saari, J. (2015). Huono-osaiset hyvinvoinnin keskellä: ruoka-avussa ja terveysneuvontapisteissä käyvien elämässä pärjääminen ja hyvinvointikokemukset. Finnish Journal of Theology 2015. A concise online version is also available.