According to the new reputation index for the service sector, the appreciation of different sectors varies significantly depending on gender and age. The gender differences are largest for young people. Furthermore, people’s impressions of a sector do not always necessarily correspond with the reality. Reputation is worth a closer look, because it is an important pull factor when aiming to attract the best experts locally and globally.

Finland is a traditional industrialised country, and in order to speed up its transformation into a modern service society, services should be regarded more highly than they currently are and their importance to economy and society should be recognised. The new reputation index* for the service sector has been designed to support the sector’s reputation-related efforts. In addition, it provides companies with information on the strengths and weaknesses of the sector’s reputation, enabling them to tackle these issues as part of their operations.

“The reputation of the sector is an essential attraction to lure skilled workforce. Without it, the Finnish services will not develop and be able to compete internationally,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, the Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

The reputation index for service sectors is part of the co-operation carried out with Lasse Mitronen, Professor of Practice from Aalto University.** The reputation index was now created for the first time, and it provides information on the views of consumers regarding various lines of business. There were 11 questions, with topics varying from payment of taxes to customer service. Six consumer services were included, and for comparison purposes three branches of industry. 

In addition, a separate index was created to cover the responsibility of consumers, because understanding the views and behaviour of consumers is important for the reputation-related work carried out by companies.

Especially men and the older generations appreciate industry

There is a clear gender-based difference in the appreciation of industries and consumer services. Even though women also evaluate industries more positively than services, their views on consumer services are clearly more positive than those of men. However, the appreciation of consumer services might challenge the status of industries in the future.

“Young women appreciate consumer services far more than the traditional backbone of the economy, namely the paper and engineering industries. For young men, the gap between services and industries is not as wide as it is for older men,” says Kurjenoja.

Retail trade is the only consumer service that was able to keep up with the industries in the reputation competition and the only service that both women and men of all ages appreciated. In the comparison, commerce was judged to have the greatest significance, especially as a source of employment, investment and tax income.

However, people’s images of a sector do not always necessarily correspond with the reality. For example, the food production industry and paper industry are considered more important to the national economy than they actually are.

Young people appreciate the retail business

Older generations evaluated the retail trade’s reputation as an employer to be next to last before the restaurant business. However, the opinion of young people below the age of 25 was nearly the opposite. Young women rated the employer reputation of the retail trade and private health care the highest. Among young men, the employer reputation of the retail trade was also rated the highest of consumer services, right after industry.

“In the corporate sector, commerce is the biggest employer of young people, with thousands of school kids and students hired for various jobs each year. Young people have therefore own experiences and knowledge of their friends’ experiences regarding the commercial sector as an employer. The commercial sector should be able to maintain this good reputation as people get older,” says Kurjenoja.

Clear gender difference in responsibility

Consumers usually expect companies to operate responsibly. And they can do this with good conscience, as the consumers’ own actions seem to be very responsible. In their daily life, women are clearly more responsible than men–at least according to their own statements–and responsibility usually increases with age.

Paying bills on time is the number one priority for Finns. Recycling is also popular, with 82 per cent of consumers recycling glass, paper and clothes always or usually. As many as 87 per cent of respondents say they plan their grocery shopping in advance so that they can reduce food waste.

“According to various reports, most of the food waste originates from households. Either consumers think their own actions are more responsible than they really are, or their advance planning does not always work,” says Kurjenoja and smiles.

Consumers are not as diligent when it comes to checking the origin, manufacturing methods or raw materials of products. Less than 40 per cent of men under 35 say that they always or usually check the origin or manufacturing method of their purchases, while more than half of men over 60 years and over 60 per cent of women of the same age do this.

More information: Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)40 820 5378,


* The reputation index covers the following consumer services: private health care, banking and finance, retail trade, restaurants and cafés, air travel and rail transport. The industry sectors included were the paper, engineering and food production industries. The index was created based on 11 questions covering five different topics. The material for the index was collected by Kantar TNS by arranging an online panel with a sample of 3,000 consumers between the ages of 18 and 79.

** In this research cooperation, Prof. Mitronen provides his academic expertise to the research design and will have access to the collected material for teaching and research purposes. The Finnish Commerce Federation has similar research cooperation with professor Hannu Saarijärvi from the School of Management at the University of Tampere.