Abstract. Laura Kemppainen, University of Helsinki, Finland
Digital inequalities in the framework of health and social welfare services. The case of older Russian-speakers in Finland
Digital information and communication technologies are becoming increasingly important for public administration of welfare states. Due to enthusiastic digitalisation projects, many welfare state services have rapidly become ‘digital by default’. Since the 2010s, the Finnish governments have emphasised digitalisation as an overarching goal in all policy sectors and implemented vast digitalisation projects in the public sector, including public health and social welfare services. Digitalisation of services demands more active position from the service users than face-to-face welfare services administered by professionals, and this may pose problems to already disadvantaged groups, which typically also need these services more. Moreover, people who are in vulnerable or marginalised position often have a poorer access to DIT, which can lead to reduced access to public services and information. As a Nordic welfare state, Finland has a wide legislation based social rights and an extensive tax-financed public health and social welfare service sector. Digitalisation of public services may foster social exclusion and endanger the realisation of social rights of already disadvantaged groups.
In this presentation, I present our findings on the use of digital health and social welfare services from the perspective of older Russian-speaking migrants in Finland. Russian-speakers are the biggest migrant group in Finland, consisting of around 84,000 people and 21% of all foreign-speakers. The population is very heterogeneous and a large proportion has arrived amid the Finno-Ugric return migration programme (the Ingrian Finns).
The presentation will cover our ongoing research on barriers of accessing digital services, including general barriers of access and access to electronic identity, which is required for most of the digital services. The results are based on the Care, Health and Ageing of Russian-Speaking Minority in Finland (CHARM) survey collected in 2019 and supplemented with qualitative interviews. The target population of the study was Russian-speaking community-dwelling older adults, who are 50 years of age or older and who permanently reside in Finland. We collected data on participants' health and well-being, public service experiences, digital inclusion, and access to various types of care. A random sample of 3000 people was drawn from the Population register of Finland, which covers all persons registered as permanently living in Finland. The sample was stratified by gender. Response rate was 36% (N=1082; 57% men and 43% women; mean age 63.2 years, standard deviation 8.4 years). The research was conducted in the framework of Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care and DigiIN – Towards Socially Inclusive Digital Society research consortiums in the University of Helsinki, Finland.