History: From a producer of basic information to a multifaceted research institute

In June 1946 ”Finland’s central organisations of production”, including the Finnish Association of Industry, the Central Association of Finnish Woodworking Industries and the Confederation of Finnish Employers (STK) founded the Economic Research Centre, which began its operations on 1 August. Post-war political and economic transformation and a lack of basic information concerning the economy created a new need for economic research.

Initially, research focused on basic surveys and studies of current issues. Among its first tasks was a report on the extent and forms of social activity in industry. Another project looked at ways to strengthen the labour supply to facilitate reconstruction and war reparations.

Soon the focus of operations centred on long-term studies. They have covered a wide variety of subjects, but a common thread has always been long-term economic growth, in particular productivity and how to improve it. In this context, structural changes in production, economic integration, competitiveness, skills in the labour force, innovation, labour market activities, public finances and especially sustainability of the pension system have all been researched. Macro-economic policy issues have also been examined extensively from time to time. Throughout its history, Etla has sought to apply advanced research methods to practical problems.

Monitoring the economic situation and forecasting its development has been one of the tasks of the institute right from the beginning. Operations became more systematic in the early 1970s, with regular economic forecasts. At the same time the research began to make use of econometric methods.

The 1970s also marked a major change in activities. In 1971, the Financial base expanded when among other things financial institutions became members of the support association. The name was also changed to the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy, which later became  ETLA Economic Research, or Etla, as we known today.
The next big turning point came in the early 2000s. Business associations and the activities they funded were rationalised. At this point, Etla and the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA got a joint board of directors, managing director and financial administration. EVA also moved into the same premises as Etla.

The newly formed Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), Confederation of Finnish Industry and Employers (TT) Foundation and the Employers’ Confederation of Service Industries (PTYTL, now defunct), remained members of Etla’s support association. In 2018, the Federation of Finnish Commerce, Finnish Forest Industries Federation, Finance Finland and Technology Industries of Finland joined Etla’s membership. The support association’s board structure changed so that instead of having a large number of representatives from various organisations, key actors in the business sector and people with a strong research background were elected to the board.

In addition to basic funding provided by the support association, the importance of project-specific financing has increased since the recession in the early 1990s. The proportion of project-related funds in the budget has been deliberately kept high throughout the 2000s.

In the beginning, there were only 5-6 people working at the institute. Today, we have over 40. Since the start, Etla has been a dynamic training ground for economists as they have moved on to universities, other research institutes, government ministries, the Bank of Finland, financial organisations and the business community.

Etla has operated in several locations in the centre of Helsinki. For the longest time, from 1977 to 2016, the institute was located at Lönnrotinkatu 4. In February 2016 Etla moved to new premises at Arkadiankatu 23.

Since its inception, ETLA Economic Research has 12 managing directors (Kaarlo Larna twice):

1946-1950 Esa Kaitila
1951-1959 Lars Wahlbeck
1960 Jouko Paakkanen
1961-1963 Kaarlo Larna
1963-1965 Jukka Wallenius
1965-1969 Aarni Nyberg
1970-1971 Nils Meinander
1971-1973 Ahti Molander
1973-1975 Kaarlo Larna
1976-1983 Tauno Ranta
1983-2005 Pentti Vartia
2005-2012 Sixten Korkman
2012-2019 Vesa Vihriälä
2019- Aki Kangasharju