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Thursday’s papers: More ministers, 'cheap' Helsinki housing, and 6-euro pay trial flops

The press on Thursday includes speculation about a possible increase in the number of ministers in the Finnish government, and getting some perspective on property prices in Helsinki.

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Image: Yle

Back in 2015, before the last parliamentary election, Centre Party leader Juha Sipilä was clear that Finland had too many ministers. There were 17 at that time, and when he became Prime Minister he reduced that figure to 14 as a demonstration of his efficient, entrepreneurial and streamlined style of government.

Now, reports STT, he’s open to increasing the number of ministerial posts once again. After 20 months of stripped-down government, and after pushing through measures that increased working hours for everyone in the country, Sipilä thinks that maybe his ministers work a bit too hard.

"I know that some ministers are a bit pushed for time," said Sipilä. "But no decisions have been made. Let’s see."

He also noted that every party is free to redistribute double portfolios, if it wants. That means the Finns Party could divide the Employment and Justice briefs currently held by Jari Lindström, the National Coalition could share out the foreign trade and development portfolios held by Kai Mykkänen, and the Centre could split Kimmo Tiilikainen’s twin jobs of Agriculture and Environment minister.

Minister numbers to rise?

National Coalition leader Petteri Orpo has also suggested that the number of ministers could increase, and the Ostrobothnian paper Kaleva has a theory about why this issue is suddenly on the agenda.

Even blind Reetta can see, says the provincial daily, that this is related to the upcoming Finns Party leadership contest and outgoing leader Timo Soini’s stated desire to stay on as Foreign Minister. The new leader would then need a ministerial position, and the easiest way to do that is to create a new post.

Kaleva isn’t impressed. In an editorial presumably written on International Women’s Day, the Oulu publication says that the Soini question is the incoming Finns Party leader’s 'manhood test'. Experience shows, says the paper, that new leaders should take the outgoing leader’s portfolio as it is usually the most important.

Helsinki expensive — but cheap

Kauppalehti has a combination of the usual 'house prices are rising' story, with additional nuggets indicating that the number of real estate deals rose 18 percent year-on-year in Helsinki and prices of two-room apartments were up by ten percent compared with a year earlier. The thesis is that Helsinki might not actually be that expensive after all -- at least in a global comparison.

A survey by high-end estate agent Knight Frank found that a million euros gets you much further in Helsinki than in many other cities around the world. In Helsinki’s most exclusive districts, that kind of money can buy as much as 133 square metres of living space.

That’s more than in Tokyo, Rome, Moscow, Shanghai, London and every other city in the survey. While that may be cold comfort to those without a million to spend on a new flat, perhaps it adds some perspective to capital city real estate realities.

Knowhow more important than hourly wage

Kauppalehti also covers the flop of a low-pay trial in the construction sector. The trial allowed businesses to pay new trainees six euros per hour — well below the minimum — if they had no experience or training in the trade.

Only one company came forward to take part, and even that firm has not yet taken on any workers under the scheme.

KL interviewed the chief economist at SAK; the blue-collar trade union confederation, who says he’s surprised that the trial has attracted such tepid interest — but that it shows that price isn’t everything. Training and skills are more important, and employers aren't keen to take the cheap option if it won't get the job done right.

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