helsinkiEarlier this week, a top political leader in Finland declared that people who live alone are targets of unfair taxes, fees, and housing costs. The laws, she noted, are unjust.

To all of the millions and millions of solo-dwellers living somewhere other than Finland, take a moment and allow yourself some vicarious savoring. Imagine that in other countries, too, political leaders might begin to take seriously the financial challenges of people who are single, especially those singles who are living alone.

Forty-two percent of all households in Finland are 1-person households, so the constituency is substantial. The comparable figure in the US is about 27%, which amounts to some 33 million people.

Raija Eeva, Founder of the Finnish Association for Singles, makes the important point that we too often think about single life as a relationship issue. We should be more focused on the significant economic implications of living alone.

Yle, Finland’s public broadcasting company (as I understand it, a combination of what NPR and PBS is in the US) highlighted the issue, and the article on their website quickly became the top story and stayed in that number one spot most of the day. It provoked online discussions and inspired people to join the Finnish Association for Singles and become Facebook members.

A shorter version was translated into English. Here are a few of the examples of singlism (discrimination against single people) described in the article:

  • “An employer may purchase insurance for his or her employee. If the employee dies a claim will be paid out to a widow, widower or the employee’s children. In the case of a single, the insurance company gets to pocket the claim.” [Bella’s note: This is comparable to the Social Security injustice in the US. People who have always been single and have no children cannot give their benefits to someone else after they die, the way a married person can. The money goes back into the system.]
  • “A single unemployed person must accept work in any town as long as there is accommodation available. However singles are not eligible for work-related housing deductions, which are reserved for couples or parents.” As Raija Eeva pointed out, “No one thinks that a single person may have an elderly mother or father he or she may be caring for. That senior could be completely dependent on that single person.”
  • In Finland, there are tax deductions for remodeling homes. “A single who pays for an expensive remodeling job is only entitled to a single claim for a tax deduction, while a couple who undertakes the same project can claim the rebate twice.”
  • “If a single inherits, he or she automatically pays a higher inheritance tax.”

The cost of buying a studio apartment in Finland, per square foot, is about a third higher than the cost of a home with two or more bedrooms. Rent is higher, too. These small studios are often all that singles in Finland can afford.

If you want a sense of what it means to face the disproportionately high cost of housing as a single person in Finland, together with all of the other ways in which single people pay more or get less than people who are not single, consider this. Tomi Flemming is a 38-year old single man who owns one of those tiny studios and works at a job as a technician. He is also a past president of the Finnish Association for Singles, and had a major role in organizing the “Education Day” in Finland last year that focused on issues involving single people. (I was one of the speakers.) He is a hard-working, responsible, politically active adult. Yet, he told Yle, he often needs financial help from his mother.

Tomi Fleming, Raija Eeva, Mona Bjork (who told me about the Yle article and helped me in other ways with this blog post – thank you, Mona!), and others have been working tirelessly for justice for single people. I am so happy that their efforts are beginning to make a difference.

[Note: For more of my writings about living alone, click here.]

Helsinki image available from Shutterstock.