Is Finland past it? Will Abba ever revive? Can winter be averted?

by Guy Kewney | posted on 06 September 2004

"At the University of Technology in Helsinki four students pursuing degrees in engineering and computing talked recently about their sense that Finland had returned to its traditional aversion to risk."

Guy Kewney

Yes, this is news. It's caused by no less sensational an event as the discovery that:

"Last May, an authoritative study of global competitiveness bounced Finland down from the top three to No. 8, countering other polls that gave Finland top marks for literacy, lack of corruption and care of the environment."

The basis for this, says the New York Times, is the tragic fact that Nokia is only twice the size of the next biggest mobile phone company in the world: "Gartner Inc., a research group, said on Thursday that Nokia's share of the global cellphone market clawed back up to 29.7 percent in the second quarter of 2004, from 28.9 percent in the first. But that was still far short of both the 35.6 percent share it recorded in the second quarter of 2003 and the company's stated ambition of 40 percent."

Because Nokia has "only" gained one percent of market share, apparently, Finland itself is on the slide: "like many other European nations, Finland is confronting the reality that its aging population is not replenishing the work force fast enough to keep financing its generous pensions and social safety nets. This year, for the first time, more people will leave Finland's work force than enter it, according to government estimates."

Walking down the streets in any British city, you could be forgiven for concluding that the main economic activity is the buying and selling of mobile phones. The back pages of the popular newspapers seem to be mostly special offers on phones and ring-tones (and personalised car number plates).

Is this really all that Western Civilization cares about? If a phone company goes into a decline - or doesn't get into a sufficiently profound dominance - is that the end of all hope for the citizens of the country where that phone company is based?

Or is the New York Times desperate for an angle?

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