Country Listing

Finland Table of Contents


Structure of the Economy

Figure 14. Structure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 1950

Figure 15. Structure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 1986

By 1986 postwar economic growth had raised Finland's GDP to about US$70.5 billion, making the country one of the most prosperous in the world. Economic expansion over the years had substantially altered the structure of the economy (see fig. 14; table 13, Appendix A). By 1986 agriculture, forestry, and fishing had fallen to a little under 8 percent of GDP from nearly 26 percent in 1950. Industry, including mining, manufacturing, construction, and utilities, accounted for about 35 percent of GDP, down from about 40 percent in 1950. Within industry, metalworking had grown most rapidly, its output almost equalling that of wood processing by the late 1970s. In the late 1980s, industrialists looked forward to a shift toward electronics and other high-technology products.

While agriculture and industry had declined in relative terms during the postwar years, the service sector had grown from about 34 percent of GDP to almost 58 percent, leading some observers to characterize Finland as a postindustrial society. Several factors accounted for the expansion of the service sector. Government, very small under the Russian Empire, grew rapidly between the Great Depression and the early 1970s as the state took responsibility for an increasingly greater share of economic life. In addition, transportation, communications, engineering, finance, and commerce became more important as the economy further developed and diversified.

Control and ownership of Finland's economic life were highly concentrated, especially after the industrial and financial restructuring of the 1980s. Thus, by 1987 three firms controlled most shipbuilding, a small number of woodworking enterprises dominated the forest industries, and two main commercial banks exercised wide-reaching influence over industrial development. Large state-owned firms provided most of the energy, basic metals, and chemicals. The country's farmers, workers, and employers had formed centralized associations that represented the vast majority of economic actors. Likewise, a handful of enterprises handled most trade with the Soviet Union. Some observers suggested that the trend toward internationalization might increase the influence of foreign firms and executives in Finnish enterprises, but this effect would make itself felt slowly. Thus, while Finland remained a land of family farms, a narrow elite ran the economy, facilitating decision making, but perhaps contributing to the average worker's sense of exclusion, which may have contributed to the country's endemic labor unrest.

Data as of December 1988