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Friday's papers: Daycare pay gaps, health care steps, new audience measurement

The week's final press review takes a look at proposed changes to daycare teachers' salaries, a "freedom of choice" health care bill and readership figures for Finland's main media outlets.

Lastentarha päiväkoti Linnunlaulu.
Daycare is a basic right in Finland, but kindergarten teachers are paid far too little. Image: Mikko Koski / Yle

Top circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat follows up on this week's salary crisis in the early childhood education sector. The new stats are in, and the HS piece holds that higher-than-average wages for daycare teachers in certain areas effectively incentivise mobility – away from the capital region.

The story that broke on Monday (and was picked up again on Wednesday) showed that kindergarten teachers get paid far less than teachers of older children and adults, with a nationwide average of 2,300 euros per month (compared with the national average of 3K€). Capital region municipal leaders have agreed not to offer competitive pay packages to attract skilled professionals; but some municipalities have already done so for more than a decade.

HS writes that as nearby as Tuusula competent daycare teachers get paid an average of 2,517 euros a month (extra-qualified teachers get some 50 euros more), whereas elsewhere the legal minimum wage is barely skirted.

The difference is meagre indeed, considering that the average primary school teacher gets a whole grand more per month for no particular reason, according to experts. Tuusula early education chief Hannamari Halinen says the geographic discrepancy is clear.

"Last spring we got so many applicants that we were able to choose the best from among them," she says in HS. "I've understood that neighboring regions have trouble getting any qualified applications at all. Employees know the pay is better here."

According to teachers' union OAJ the trouble is due to too few people receiving training for childcare. The Ministry of Education in fact said on Tuesday that a thousand more university starting spots have been opened up for early childhood education.

OAJ chair Olli Luukkanen is explicit in his demand: daycare teachers' salaries should begin with a 3.

"If daycare teachers were made to get a Master's degree instead of just Bachelor's papers, it could increase the prestige of the job," he says in HS. "That's what happened with school teachers in the 80s."

Sote soup still simmering

Print news moves from education to health care in regional paper Aamulehti, which reports on the latest developments in the political tug of war that is the national social service and health care reform, or "sote".

Government gave Parliament their bill proposal based on the so-called "freedom of choice" clause on Thursday. The contention is that if the reform is passed citizens would be allowed to choose which public or private health centre they would frequent. Special all-region vouchers would also be allotted case by case for specialist services such as home care and disability services.

AL writes that the bill includes several key amendments. These include removing the requirement for far-flung municipalities to go private to guarantee service, enabling certain regions to initiate the reform's pilot phase as soon as possible and bringing the freedom of choice clause into being in baby steps rather than in one big shift.

The debate will undoubtedly reignite on Wednesday, March 14 when opposition and government parties get to go head to head in the bill's referral discussion round.

Online media audience of 3.5m

Meanwhile the company that calculates the online readerships of Finland's top media houses has changed, and the new figures are in. Statistics outfit Finnish Internet Audience Measurement (Fiam) took over from TNS Metrix early this year, reports free southern region paper Keski-Uusimaa.

The new numbers are from January, and include all visits to media outlet sites on all manner of devices.

"Every week our papers reach about 1.7 million Finns online and in print, which is in line with fresh Media Audit figures," says Silja Tenhunen, content manager of news conglomerate Etelä-Suomen Media, which accounts for about 20 free-distribution dailies in Southern Finland.

KU reports that Yle (including its Areena streaming service) reached some 3.5 million readers in January, as did tabloid Ilta-Sanomat in its preliminary stats. Finland's second major tabloid, Iltalehti, reached an audience of 3.2 million in this time.

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