A woman is sitting in an armchair reading a book.

Helsinki residents value diversity, but there is still room for improvement in equality and parity of services

The city surveyed the residents' perceptions and experiences of the implementation of equality and gender parity in the city's services at the end of 2020. It is known that similar sample surveys on this topic have not been carried out in Finland before. A recent report on the results of the survey provides important information to support the city’s work on equality and parity in the coming strategy period.

According to the survey, almost nine out of ten Helsinki residents appreciate the diversity of the city's residents, and an equal number of respondents also felt that they can live a good life in Helsinki as it is. On the other hand, just over half of the respondents considered Helsinki to be a safe city for those belonging to minority groups. Just under half felt that equality and parity for all service users is currently being achieved in the city’s services. Only five percent of respondents fully agreed with the statement that the city has succeeded in preventing digital exclusion.

Just under one-fifth of the respondents had, themselves, experienced discrimination and ill-treatment

Two out of five respondents considered discrimination in the City of Helsinki services to be at least fairly common on at least one of the grounds of discrimination mentioned in the survey, and about a third had been treated unfairly. 19% of the respondents reported that they had personally experienced discrimination in the City of Helsinki’s services, and 17% reported that they had personally experienced inappropriate treatment. Both discrimination and inappropriate treatment were most experienced in health care services. The most common discrimination experienced was on the basis of age, health status and language. By age group, the youngest age groups reported experiencing discrimination more generally.

Of those who experienced inappropriate treatment, 84 percent had been treated inappropriately by City of Helsinki staff and 39 percent by other customers. The perceived inappropriate treatment was most commonly a derogatory or offensive treatment or shouting, name calling, or threatening.

Experiences of women and minorities were more negative than others

Female respondents considered the state of equality and non-discrimination in the City of Helsinki services in general more negatively than men. They considered discrimination and inappropriate treatment to be more common than men and a higher proportion of women than men also reported experiencing discrimination and inappropriate treatment themselves in City of Helsinki services. Fear of discrimination or inappropriate treatment had also prevented more female than male respondents from using City of Helsinki services.

Respondents belonging to minorities had clearly experienced more discrimination and inappropriate treatment in City of Helsinki services. They also had these experiences more often than other respondents, i.e., most of them had had such experiences at least quite often.

The survey was conducted as a postal and online survey in Finnish, Swedish and English at the turn of the year 2020–2021. The survey was sent to 3,500 Helsinki residents over the age of 16, who had been selected at random from the Helsinki Population Information System. 1001 residents responded to the survey (response rate was 29). The survey charted respondents’ views on the implementation of equality in the City of Helsinki’s services in general, as well as respondents' experiences of discrimination and inappropriate treatment of ten different service entities: housing services, public transport; streets, parks and other public areas, education and training services, cultural services, sports services, youth services, social services, health services and employment services.

The results of the survey will also be discussed in the theme issue on equality and non-discrimination in the city newsletter Kvart, which will be published in August 2021.

Read more:

Realization of equality and gender equality in the services of the City of Helsinki - the views and experiences of the citizens (In Finnish)

Human Rights in Helsinki

Newsletter Kvart


Image: Jussi Hellsten, City of Helsinki Media Bank.