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Equality and non-discrimination

Helsinki aims to be a city built on human rights where everyone can be seen and heard and can live and participate on an equal footing without any direct or indirect discrimination. Achieving this goal requires strong commitment and continuous and determined work to promote equality and non-discrimination in the city. This is particularly relevant to the promotion of SDG 5 (Gender equality), but also closely related to SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities) and SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth).
SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

A gender analysis of the indicators of the 2017–2021 strategy period reveals that unemployment and deprivation are at a higher level for men than for women. Particular attention should be paid to young boys’ exclusion from education and proneness to crime. In the case of women and girls, attention should be paid to perceived safety, the employment of immigrant women and the anxiety and loneliness of girls in secondary school. Young women have also been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 crisis. More information is needed on the situation of various gender minorities.

Concrete measures to promote equality and non-discrimination

According to the strategy, gender equality is a principle permeating all activities of the city. During the past strategy period, a large research and development project was carried out in the city, focusing on gender impact assessment and gender-sensitive budgeting. It is important to invest in the implementation of the recommendations compiled in the final reports of the project in order to ensure that the city benefits from the project on a lasting basis.

The separate equality and non-discrimination plans for services approved by the City Board in 2019 and 2020 contain concrete measures for the work of the City Executive Office and divisions to promote equality and non-discrimination. The internal intermediate assessment of the equality plan for services at the end of 2020 concluded that fairly good progress had been made in the overall implementation of the measures: five measures had been implemented, 16 were ongoing and two had not been started.

The equality and non-discrimination plan for services for the 2022–2025 council term will be drawn up as a coherent whole in order to comprehensively address the issue from a wide range of perspectives. In other respects, too, the city’s work for equality and non-discrimination increasingly seeks to take into account the intersectional aspect, meaning how an environment built on diverse and intersecting norms affects the lives and opportunities of the city residents.

Human rights network established

As service providers, the city’s divisions play a central role in ensuring that equality and non-discrimination are implemented in the city’s services in practice. In addition to city-level equality and non-discrimination planning, it is important for the divisions to take into account the equality and non-discrimination perspective at different levels of their activities in planning, resourcing, monitoring and evaluation alike.

The COVID-19 crisis has increasingly highlighted the need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable.

The city-level development of the equality and non-discrimination of services is coordinated by the City Executive Office. A human rights network was also established in spring 2019, which can be joined by any city employee interested in promoting human rights.

In addition, the city has an equality and non-discrimination coordination group composed of managerial and executive-level representatives, as well as two politically elected bodies, the Gender Equality Commission and the Non-discrimination Commission, which monitor the equality and non-discrimination work in the city.

Statutory decision-making bodies the Elderly Citizens Council, the Council on Disability and the Youth Council focus on monitoring the implementation of equality among their own reference groups, as well as on highlighting their perspectives and needs in the city’s activities and decision-making.

Human Rights in Helsinki

The Human Rights in Helsinki website is where you will find information about the city’s work on gender equality and non-discrimination. The website is intended for both residents and city employees.

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Staff perspective on equality and non-discrimination

The City of Helsinki is the largest employer in Finland, employing approximately 39,000 people. The city has worked for a long time to promote the well-being and equality of its staff. The gender equality plan and non-discrimination plan for personnel guide HR policy work in promoting equal and non-discriminating working life.

The measures of the non-discrimination plan promote, among other things, the employment of people with disabilities. The City of Helsinki has also tried anonymous recruitment. It is based on the equal and non-discriminating treatment of applicants and promotion of staff diversity.

The aim is to give all applicants an equal opportunity to be invited to the job interview without being affected by anything irrelevant to the job. The annual staff report also covers the implementation of equality and non-discrimination.

The city has also used the virtual Helvi group discussion instructor in equality and non-discrimination themes, preparing an equality and non-discrimination Helvi for work communities and a diverse recruitment Helvi for supervisors.

The Helvi instructors help work communities, supervisors and experts to discuss how everyone can promote equality and non-discrimination through their own work and in recruitment.


  • Human rights have been highlighted as the basis for the development of equality and non-discrimination work in the city.
  • The extensive investigation and practical piloting carried out in the gender equality project (2018–2019) and the clear recommendations for further measures based on them provide a good basis for cementing gender impact assessment and gender-conscious budgeting practices in the city.
  • The human rights network brings together city employees across administrative boundaries to learn, think and discuss; the common goal is to promote equality and non-discrimination in the city’s services.
  • An anonymous recruitment experiment, intranet pages in support of diverse recruitment and Helvi virtual coaching for supervisors for diverse recruitment.

Development targets

  • Lack of indicators to verify the realisation of gender equality and non-discrimination
  • Practical implementation of the recommendations of the gender equality project’s two final reports for gender impact assessment and gender-sensitive budgeting
  • Better consideration of different subsets (women vs. men vs. gender minorities; native Finnish women vs. immigrant women, etc.) in the information production of the city and in monitoring and reporting the implementation of the goals of the city strategy, divisions and segments, so that differences between groups that are important for the planning of measures are not overlooked
  • Comprehensive consideration of equality and non-discrimination aspects in the management and aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. sign language communication/crisis communication)

Links to related programmes, reports and websites