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Wednesday's papers: Headscarves, Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel, electronic exams, and looking for stolen goods

On Tuesday, the European Union's top court ruled that companies may ban staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions. The freesheet Metro writes today that in Finland many employers have dress codes in place that allow scarves on the job.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Metro points out that there are differences in dress codes, pointing to the big wholesalers-retailers, K-Group and HOK as two employers that allow scarves on the job, and to the police which ban uniformed officers from wearing religiously symbolic head coverings for reasons of safety.

The paper interviewed Noor Hadi, a school teacher in Turku, who said that her use of a scarf at work has never been questioned by her employers. She added that before deciding to study to become a teacher, she explored an interest in a career in social and health care. At that time she was asked if she would be willing to exchange her own scarf for one supplied by employers while at work, something she didn't consider a problem.

Many employers in the health care sector, such as the hospital district of Helsinki and Uusimaa, provide scarves to Muslim women employees who wish to wear them as part of their work uniforms.

Metro also reports that although the K-Group in principle allows the use of scarves by employees, the policy is conditional. A group spokesman told the paper that the policy was issued three years ago, but as a recommendation. The chains retail outlets are independently owned and the final decision is up to each individual owner.

Tunnel to Tallinn

Helsingin Sanomat today looks at some of the practical engineering aspects of linking the Finnish and Estonian capitals with a tunnel running under the Gulf of Finland.

Helsinki and Tallinn have signed a letter of intent on creating the tunnel link and a new study by a group of municipalities in the Helsinki region is due for competition this year.

The paper presents an overview of the geological formations that the construction of the 80km tunnel would encounter. Overall, though, Helsingin Sanomat says that builders would be tunnelling through familiar rock that Finnish engineers have experience in dealing with. As an example, it notes the 120km tunnel through the bedrock that brings water to Helsinki from Lake Päijänne. That tunnel was completed in ten years using traditional boring and blasting techniques.

Using modern equipment and new techniques, a Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel could be completed, in theory, within five years.

Electronic exams

Computers are increasingly replacing pencil and paper for students taking their matriculation exams this spring, writes the Oulu-based Kaleva.

Last autumn, for the first time, students were able to use laptops to take exams in three subjects. Three more have now been added to the list.

The innovation has received mostly positive feedback, but has also encountered some technical problems, which organizers may face again during today's psychology exam.

Students use their own laptops for the exams. They are given USB drives that contain the examinations and an independent operating system to load and handle the work.

Last autumn there were compatibility issues with some of the USB drives. Some laptops, especially newer ones, have also had problems running the independent OS.  The workaround right now is that schools have been instructed to have back-up laptops on hand to loan to students who run into these problems.

Digital devices are making more headway in education, in general. The latest secondary school curriculum allows first-year students to choose between using traditional printed textbooks or digital books that can be used on any mobile device. However, Mirjami Berg, a psychology teacher in Oulu, told the paper that she was surprised that out of her class of 36 new students this year, only one or two opted for the digital textbooks.

Looking for stolen goods

Turun Sanomat writes that a police-operated national website may be set up to help trace and recover stolen goods. Or, maybe not.

The idea has been launched by the head of the Federation of Finnish Financial Services, modelled on a site in neighbouring Sweden run by the insurance sector, Risto Karhunen.

Karhunen says that the site could help reduce theft by making it harder for criminals to sell stolen goods and make it easier for people to recover items they've lost to thieves.

Inspector Jyrki Aho of the National Police Board agrees that it would be a good initiative and worth exploring, but also said that the reality is that the police do not have the resources to manually maintain such a service.

Another issue noted by Turun Sanomat is that crimes against property, including theft, have been declining over the past few years.

In order for this kind of website to function properly, people would also have provide detailed information about stolen property, such as the serial number or photograph of a stolen bicycle. According to both Karhunen and Aho, few people actually keep detailed documentation of what they own.

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