Reducing regulatory burden through high-quality legislative drafting

Towards a realistic representation of regulatory burden

Regulatory burden often refers to such impacts of legislation that burden the subjects of regulation in terms of finances, taking up their time or causing inconvenience or annoyance. The research project ”Evaluating and reducing regulatory burdens” (2016–2018), funded by the Finnish Government, strove towards drafting a general overview that would be as comprehensive, realistic and versatile as possible of regulatory burden caused to companies and citizens in Finland. Producing a precise, quantitative overall assessment of regulatory burden proved to be impossible, however. Even though other OECD and EU countries have presented numerical estimates, the reliability of these figures has been questioned in various evaluations.

Regulatory burden does not mean that regulation in itself is a burden. Accordingly, identifying the central sources of unnecessary burden was a specific goal. Unnecessary burden is generated by the following factors, for example: unclear regulations that are prone to changing quickly, contradictory and overlapping requirements, excessively burdensome procedures in terms of interacting with the authorities, and incoherent implementation of regulation.

The various forms of regulatory burden have been analysed using various sets of materials, methods and interpretative frameworks. The analyses offer a multifaceted image of the dimensions of regulatory burden on a general level. The analyses also explain why it is difficult to provide a numerical overall estimate of regulatory burden, and why such endeavours may not be very sensible. According to the key results, 1) regulatory burden is a vague concept but multifaceted as a phenomenon, 2) it is difficult to measure regulatory burden, 3) insufficient understanding and managing of regulation, and problems with implementation, make up a core section of regulatory burden, 4) target parties’ experiences of regulatory burden are varied. The project puts forth 15 development proposals. They focus on the targeting of measures to reduce regulatory burden, the quality of legislative drafting and the development of implementation procedures.

This Policy Brief presents the general results of the project. Three other Policy Briefs also exist based on the project. They concern regulatory burden on companies, on civic activity and on individuals, as well as the "one-in, one-out principle" in more detail.