The scope of present day civil societyAaro Harju
The most central part of Finnish civil society consists of citizens’ spontaneous civic activities and the activities of the various organizations. Civic activities are extensive and diverse in Finland. People are active in various networks with their friends, acquaintances, neighbours and colleagues. People help one another, look after yards and parks together, organize exercise events or treks, organize occasions and demonstrations, raise money for charity or children’s school trips, gather for voluntary meetings, and so forth. Young people also get active and interact in a new operational environment of messengers, the Internet and blogs. Symbolic and mental communities are examples of the civic activities in the post modern era, without organizations or official rules.
Some of the civic activities take place in view, others as quiet action without public appearances. Due to the nature of people’s spontaneous civic activity, statistics cannot be compiled of it and thus the exact figures of its volume are not available. There have been questionnaire studies conducted on civic activity, but the results are not reliable for the respondents don’t perceive all their activities as counting as civic activity in the sense that is meant in the questionnaires.
There is information available on Finnish organizational activities. The Register of Associations has 120,000 organizations, of which approximately 70,000 are active. There are approximately 1,000 national federations and 3,000 district organizations. The rest are local organizations. There are approximately 30,000 unregistered associations. Considering the population, there is a considerable number of associations in Finland.
The associations have a membership of approximately 15 million persons in total, which is triple thepopulation. Approximately 75 per cent of Finns are members of some association during their lifetime. Approximately 30 per cent are members of one association and 8 per cent are members of more than five associations. (Siisiäinen 1996b, 41–43)
The turnover of these civic organizations is approximately 5 billion euros. The proportion of public funding is approximately 1.6 billion (32 per cent). The largest amount of funding is given to social and health organizations, which also have the biggest turnover. In Finland the proportion of public funding is below the European average and lower than in the United States, too.
There are approximately 82,000 people working in the associations, out of which 25,000 are part-time workers. The workers of the associations make up 3.5 per cent of the whole labour force. The figure is approximately the same as the civic activities’ share of the gross domestic product.
In 1996, voluntary work in the civic organizations totalled 123 million hours, the equivalent of 80,000 man-years (4 per cent of the labour force). The calculated value of voluntary work is approximately 2 billion euros per year. According to different studies, 29–37 per cent of the population regularly engage in voluntary work spending an average of 18 hours per month, over four hours per week doing it. Men are slightly more active than women. The most actively involved group are working people with a high level of education. (Ajankäyttötutkimus 1999–2000, Tilastokeskus; Yeung 2001)
In Finland the majority of voluntary work is done in civic organizations. The most popular area of voluntary work consists of the different operations of sports and exercise organizations (30%). The second most popular area is made up of the activities of social and health organizations (25%) and the third, of the voluntary work in the children and youth pedagogical organizations (22%).30 In addition to the organizations, much of the voluntary work is done as neighbourly help and within the sphere of the Church. (Ajankäyttötutkimus 1999–2000, Tilastokeskus)
Besides the civic and organizational activities, civil society consists of foundations, cooperations, political parties and the non-formal adult education. There are approximately 2,700 foundations and 1,200 smallscale cooperations in existence at the moment. Political parties have 6,400 members and the local organizations 360,000 members. Non-formal adult education covers the teaching provided by the adult education centres, folk universities, study centres, sport education centres and the summer universities. The calculated volume of non-formal adult education is 35,000 students per year and the number of individual acts of participation in educational activities is approximately 1.5 million.
The proportion of the operations of civil society in the labour force and the gross domestic product is in many Western European countries higher than in Finland. Such is the case especially in the Netherlands, Ireland and Belgium. In these countries the proportion of the work force within the sphere of civil society is above 10 per cent of the country’s total labour force. Similarly, in terms of turnover, in many Western European countries the operations of civil society are of a greater importance than in Finland. Foundations, funds and mutual corporations have a central role in these countries, unlike in Finland. (Helander & Laaksonen 1999, 55–68)
Looking at the number of civic organizations, Finland is in the lead with the other Nordic countries and the Netherlands. The same applies to voluntary work. Besides Western Europe, civic organizations and voluntary work have a central role in the United States. (Helander & Laaksonen 1999, 55–68)