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Monday's papers: Income inequalities, Helsinki housing, petrol prices

Many low-wage workers are struggling to keep up with increasing living costs in the capital region, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

File photo, Helsinki. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Many low-wage workers' incomes have not kept pace with the rising costs of living in the city, Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports on Monday.

In Helsinki, there are currently more than 15,000 people receiving Finland's benefits agency Kela's general housing allowance, whose only source of income is wages or business income, according to HS. This means that essentially, their salary cannot cover their housing costs.

Housing costs in the capital are higher than the rest of the country, partly explaining the amount of housing benefits granted to people in paid employment, Pirjo Väänänen, Head of Social Affairs at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), told the paper.

Additionally, wages of low-paid jobs have simply not kept up with the rising cost of living, Väänänen said.

According to Väänänen, while there was no quick and easy solution, one option would be to raise wages in low-wage sectors and increase part-time workers' hours.

Income disparities may alienate friends

Leisure time has become more consumer-oriented, and large income disparities can alienate friends, according to a piece run by Jyväskylä's Keskisuomalainen (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

"As friends are seen during leisure time, large differences in income can make a big impact," according to Professor of Sociology Terhi-Anna Wilska from the University of Jyväskylä.

Having a low income can affect, for instance, whether you can attend a friend's coffee meeting, dinner, shop, or travel together, Wilska noted, adding that income inequality may have become more pronounced and visible in the 21st century as leisure time has become more driven by consumption habits.

Wilska told readers that income disparities can gradually alienate friends, since most people usually prefer to stay out of financially draining situations rather than reveal their low income.

"The Finnish culture of sharing isn't as strong as that of many other European countries, for example, and people here find both roles difficult: offering and receiving. In more communal cultures, it is normal for the wealthier individual to pay if the other lacks money," Wilska said.

Wilska concluded that people in Finland should talk more openly about money, their wages, and also their financial problems, since openness could reduce the shame associated with low income.

Petrol prices falling fast

After steadily rising for a year, petrol prices have recently started to fall, Taloussanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun) reports, with 95 octane petrol, or 95E10, now priced below two euros at some stations in Finland.

This is a significant drop, TS writes, as the price of 95E10 petrol was still hovering around 2.5 euros a litre at Midsummer. Its price has now fallen below two euros at least in Oulu, Helsinki's neighbourhood Viikki and Ylivieska.

The price of 98 octane petrol, or 98E10, is still over two euros per litre, but diesel has already reached a price of less than two at several stations. Last week, diesel dropped below two euros per litre at a few stations, and the price drop has continued.

According to Taloussanomat, citing data from Statistics Finland, prices are falling fast now, with the average price of diesel at 2.17 euros last week, down from 2.21 euros the week before.

Meanwhile, the average price per litre of 95E10 petrol was 2.22 euros last week, TS writes, down from 2.25 euros the previous week, while the average price per litre of 98E5 petrol fell to 2.32 euros from its 2.34 euros the previous week.