Until the Second World War, Finland – unlike the other Scandinavian states, where industry had already established itself considerably – remained an almost exclusively rural country. Very serious damage was then linked to the conflict, above all due to the forced transfer of a substantial part (about 12%) of the territory to the USSR, together with the payment of heavy indemnities. Furthermore, the hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Soviet-dominated regions created serious settlement and employment problems. After the war the country it has strengthened its production structure, without however succeeding in diversifying it; this entailed a significant dependence both on the performance of international markets for the related products, and on the importation of a vast range of consumer goods and raw materials, especially energy. The delicate geopolitical position and the consequent need to balance economic relations with Western and Eastern Europe have determined the affirmation of a particular development model, based on the private ownership of the means of production, but regulated by a strong state commitment in coordination and services. This process is supported, within the country, by a high tax burden. The increase in energy costs and the growing competition from the new industrialized countries have presented, for Finland, peculiar characteristics linked to the high level of dependence on imports and competition from countries able to offer the same products on the market, such as Sweden. Within the same development model, however, the resumption of economic growth of the country above all through diversification in production, both shipbuilding and wood derivatives, and through tax relief for industry. Moreover, the territorial imbalances between the weaker central-northern regions and the southern ones are sensitive, where limited areas of settlement concentration benefit from a much wider distribution of resources, with consequent difficulties in making full use of them.
According to topschoolsintheusa, Finland is the European country with the highest percentage of wooded area, 72%, of which half is private, 40% belongs to the state, the rest of large companies, local authorities and religious communities. Of the annual wood production (about 50 million m 3, in 2006), a large part is destined for processing in sawmills and for the production of paper; another important use is that for domestic needs (especially heating), while export in the raw state affects the measure about 10%. Agriculture (2.8% of GDP in 2008), hampered by the natural environment, is in a state of progressive crisis. The lands used for crops and livestock (including meadows and pastures) cover almost 8% of the territory (with prevalence in the southern regions and in the coastal regions of the Gulf of Bothnia); small cultivated oases have also been able to be created in the northernmost regions. The most resistant cereal is barley, which matures in 3-4 months and reaches up to 68 ° lat. N in Lapland, where it allows for integration of the forestry economy. The breeding allows a strong production of dairy products which assumes considerable value in the economy of small companies, often united in cooperatives. The zootechnical patrimony is mostly composed of cattle and pigs; reindeer are typical in Lapland. The breeding of fur animals (blue and silver foxes) is also widespread. A considerable resource is offered by fishing (herring, salmon and trout). The deposits of useful minerals are very limited: iron and cupriferous pyrites at Outokumpu, 75 km ESE of Kuopio, from which sulfur is extracted in moderate quantities; lead minerals in Orijärvi and modest quantities of gold and silver; some iron mines, such as those of Pitkäranta (with the nearby Vartsilä metallurgical plant) are now in Russian territory.
The secondary sector is the one that was most affected by the collapse of the USSR and the decline of the cooperation treaties, as this event forced the Finnish economy to reconvert to produce goods suitable for other markets, among other things through a downsizing of the steel industry and heavy industry in general. The branch that most distinguishes itself within the manufacturing sector has become that of electronics and telecommunications (in particular mobile telephony), which has reached an advanced technological level in a very short time. The major steel plants, flanked by shipyards with specialized productions serving the oil industry, are in Pori, Turku, Inha, Tampere and Helsinki; the chemical and textile industries are also noteworthy. Other activities concern the processing of tobacco, sugar, rubber and glass. Industrialization, as a whole, has been validly supported by public intervention, in the form of both the establishment of companies directly operating in the sector, and planning and financing interventions.
Tourism is growing especially in Lapland (also for winter sports) and recorded 3,375,000 entries in 2006.
The layout of the internal communication routes is characterized by strong seasonal variations. The roads (78,821 km in 2008, of which 50,854 were asphalted) are quite developed, even if often mediocre from a technical point of view. The river and lake network extends for 7900 km: among the numerous navigable canals (about 20) the most important is the Saimaa, which connects the lake of the same name with the Gulf of Finland, partly crossing, following an agreement with the USSR, the now Russian territory. The railway network (5741 km) is considerable in relation to the number of residents, even if it is scarce compared to the extension of the territory. The maritime connections have numerous well-equipped ports at their disposal: Helsinki prevails for imports, Kotka for exports of timber, cellulose, etc.; Hanko and Turku are accessible even in winter with the help of icebreakers.
The country’s main airports are those of Helsinki, Oulu, Vaasa and Turku.