Healthy Finland Survey: One in five young women have experienced discrimination in working life

Publication date 23.11.2023 2.00 | Published in English on 19.12.2023 at 11.33
Press release

Discrimination in working life is common, and especially young women experience discrimination.

As many as 20 per cent of women aged 20-39 had experienced discrimination at their workplace or during a job search over the past year. Experiences of workplace discrimination were most common among highly educated women. The information was revealed in the results of the extensive Healthy Finland Survey.

People aged 20–74 were asked about discrimination in working life. 16% of all women aged and 11% of men had experienced discrimination at their workplace or during a job search over the past year. 

The share of women aged 55-64 who had experienced discrimination was also high: 16% of women aged 55-64 said they had encountered discrimination at their workplace or during a job search.

In the scope of the study discrimination was defined as being treated in a manner that was less favourable than others because of a personal characteristic. Such characteristics may include age, gender, ethnicity, skin colour, disability, appearance, sexual orientation or religion.

"The prevalence of discrimination in working life experienced by young women may be due to many factors. Young age groups are more diverse, which may expose them to discrimination. Employers may still expect young women to take family leave, which may also expose them to discrimination. There may also be other gendered assumptions and valuations. In addition, young generations may be better able to identify discrimination than their parents and be more aware of it,” Research Professor Anu Castaneda describes.

"Experiences of discrimination have plenty of links with people's experiences of security, mental health, experiences of loneliness, wellbeing, trust and quality of life. Therefore, experiences of discrimination should be actively addressed in different contexts, such as working life, service situations and everyday encounters," says Castaneda. 

Loneliness has become more common

The study also examined experiences of inclusion and loneliness.  

According to recent results, more than one in ten experienced loneliness. This corresponds to more than half a million people in the entire adult population. 

The youngest adults experienced the most loneliness. About 17% of 20–39-year-olds felt lonely. Also many people aged 75 or over felt lonely: as many as 13% of women and 10% of men. 

Experiences of loneliness have become more common between 2018 and 2022. In 2018, 9% of people aged 20–64 were lonely and in 2022 as many as 13%. 

"The pandemic is likely part of the reason for the increase in loneliness, but is not likely to be the only reason. The reasons are probably linked to a more extensive reform, which has seen us shift away from communality towards a more individual-centred way of living and thinking. In addition, our environment today is quite performance-oriented, emphasising external achievements," Castaneda says.

"We could try to take steps backwards and increase our mutual responsiveness and friendliness to each other. It is important for everyone to feel heard and seen. Reliable, stable relationships are one of the basic pillars of our wellbeing – it is worth investing in these,” Castaneda continues.

Young men in particular have experiences of lacking inclusion

The experience of inclusion refers to feelings of belonging and meaningfulness, the ability to manage one’s life and trust in the future, and people's personal perception of their possibilities of participating in making decisions concerning their own lives and in joint activities.

One in ten experienced very lacking inclusion. This is equal to more than 400,000 members of Finland’s adult population. A very lacking experience of inclusion is most common among young adults. In particular men aged 20–39 had very lacking experiences of inclusion: the share of men in this age group who experienced very poor inclusion was as high as 13%. The experience of lacking inclusion was also more common among those with a low level of education.

"The new results confirm the results of previous studies on that gender, age and education are linked to the experience of inclusion. Especially as different vulnerabilities accumulate, the risk of a very lacking experience of inclusion increases and it may be reflected more widely in wellbeing," says Researcher Lars Leemann.

The survey was implemented in autumn 2022 and in spring 2023. A total of 28,000 randomly selected persons aged 20 and over from different parts of Finland responded to the survey. Only people aged 20–74 were asked about discrimination in working life. 


Loneliness, inclusion and experiences of discrimination, online report, results of the Healthy Finland Survey. (in Finnish)

Results by wellbeing services county (in Finnish)

Further information:

Anu Castaneda (working life discrimination and loneliness)
Research Professor
Tel. +358 29 524 7848
[email protected]

Lars Leemann (Inclusion)
Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
Tel. +358 29 524 7509
[email protected]

Healthy Finland Survey 

Results of the Healthy Finland Survey 

Previously on this survey:

Healthy Finland Survey: Concern about climate change is common, and many make sustainable choices in their everyday lives. THL press release, 22 November 2023

Healthy Finland Survey: More than half of people aged 65–74 feel fully able to work – even so, only a small proportion is in paid employment. THL press release, 7 November 2023

Healthy Finland Survey: Only less than half of adults engage in enough physical activity, staying up late and insufficient sleep have become more common. THL press release, 26 October 2023

Healthy Finland Survey: One in five adults have had to compromise on food, medicines or doctor’s appointments because of lack of money. THL press release, 5 October 2023

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