The roots of the Prime Minister’s Office go back to events that took place 200 years ago. In 1809, Finland became an autonomous part of Russia and its own central administrative body, the Governing Council, later named the Senate, was established.

The history of the Prime Minister's Office is linked to the development of the position of Prime Minister. The Prime Minister inherited his formal position from the Vice-Chairman of the Economic Division of the old Senate, who was placed in charge of his own office in 1892.

The Economic Division was in charge of the registration of documents, Senate regulations, the statute book, and accounting and translation activities for the Senate. The Vice-Chairman of the Economic Division did not preside over political matters.

In 1918, the Office of the Senate Economic Division was renamed the Prime Minister's Office. Its structure, official posts and personnel remained unchanged. In addition, its activities were intended to serve the entire Government, not just the Prime Minister.

Since the various ministries remained fairly independent – a tradition dating back to the days when Finland was an autonomous grand duchy – there was no room for a strong Prime Minister or Prime Minister's Office. Under Finland's form of government, the Prime Minister was initially in a secondary position in relation to the strong presidency. The strengthening of the Prime Minister's position in the 1990s was accompanied by the shoring up of the Prime Minister's Office.

Units for national planning

After Finland gained independence, the Prime Minister's Office was divided into two units: the registry and the translation office. Subordinate to these were the Government publications stock, a printing house, the Library of Parliament, the Official Gazette and the Statistics Office, which in the 1950s was transferred to the Ministry of Finance.

At times, the Government organisation has also included various separate bodies. In 1918, a separate Office for Foreign Affairs was established under the Prime Minister's Office. An Information Centre was established in wartime Finland in 1939. The Information Centre was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior in 1945 and converted into a temporary inspection department for information activities. In 1947, the department was abolished.

A National Planning Committee was established under the Prime Minister's Office in 1953. This body was succeeded by the National Planning Office in 1958 and later by the National Planning Council, prior to the establishment of a separate planning department in 1973. In the early 1950s, the Economic Council and its secretariat were established under the Prime Minister's Office.

Secretary to the Prime Minister and other employees

The Prime Minister's Office initially had a small staff, which was further reduced in the 1920s. Until 1963, the Prime Minister's Office had only a minimal staff of 10-20 officials in addition to the presenting official. Direction of the Government depended largely on the Prime Minister's personal qualities. The first non-political secretary to assist the Prime Minister was employed in 1926.

The Prime Minister has had a political secretary since the early years of independence. Since 1972, political secretaries have also been appointed for other ministers under the Prime Minister's Office. Today, these secretaries are known as special advisers to ministers. The number of staff in the Prime Minister’s Office began to expand in the 1960s. At present, the number of permanent employees totals around 250.

In the early years, the title of the top official in the Prime Minister's Office varied until the establishment, in 1963, of the full-time post of Permanent Secretary. Aarne Nuorvala was appointed as the first Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office.

The first State Secretary was appointed to the Prime Minister's Office in 1990. This is a political appointment which changes with the Prime Minister. The tasks of the Permanent Secretary were divided between the State Secretary and the newly established post of Permanent State Under-Secretary. The State Secretary assists the Prime Minister in directing the political process, while the Permanent State Under-Secretary directs the administration of the Prime Minister's Office.