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Friday's papers: Asylum seeker costs, family leave reform, TubeTour circuit

This week's last paper review looks at hiked legal and language service costs for asylum seekers, different proposals for a big change in parental allowance payouts and a popular new form of live entertainment coming to Finland.

Äiti lastenvaunujen kanssa meren rannalla.
Finland's paid family leave system needs updating, papers report. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

An Ilta-Sanomat piece on the costs of private measures for asylum seekers such as legal and interpreting services paints a startling picture. The article begins by saying that the "bill" for asylum-related legal firms' services has swollen considerably.

The paper reports Justice Ministry figures comparing the amounts received by private legal companies for handling asylum seeker cases. In 2015 the total for the firms was 3.8 million euros. Last year it grew to 8.2 million.

Another jump was in translation and interpretation services. The Finnish Immigration Service's language assistance cost 939,000 euros in 2015, and a whopping 8.6 million euros last year.

The highest-earning legal practice was found to be Legalite, whose revenues bounced from 800,000 euros to more than 2 million euros in a year. The company says it "specialise[s] in solving legal problems for individuals and companies of immigrant origin" on its website.

Justice Ministry legal aid chief Merja Muilu tells IS that the high rates in 2016 are largely because of an invoicing lag. A law change last autumn turned hourly fees into fixed, case-specific rates.

"Some of the services may have been rendered a year previously," says Muilu in the piece. "Legal aid resources have been greatly increased. Most of the decision-making aides in these cases are lawyers from private offices."

The Immigration Service's asylum seeker unit decided on a total of 28,252 cases in 2016.

Family leave and pay scrutinised

Top Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, meanwhile, features a spread on a thorny societal issue; namely reforming the country's outdated maternity and paternity leave policy. Gender equality and employment issues are at the forefront of the reform proposals.

The paper writes that men seldom use their right to paid paternal leave from work, and that the large proportion of women who stay at home may be marginalised from working life, affecting their entire careers and pensions. Pressure to change the stiff system is now widespread, HS says.

The article details the plans that different parties and organisations are proposing, with changes occurring in the number of months that the four main types of subsidy are paid. These are the maternity (currently 4 months), paternity (2 months) and parental allowances (6 months) and child home care support (24 months).

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) would bring all three allowances up to 6 months and retain the home care support's year-long period. But this model, HS writes, is inefficient and does not allow parents to work while caring for their infant.

The most radical proposal in the piece is that of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), which calls for a seven-month-long maternity period, a 6.75-month paternity period, a six-month home care support span – and no joint parental aid at all. One of the flaws in this plan, the paper analyses, is that parents would have their own freedom of choice effectively revoked.

YouTubers "IRL"

In youth entertainment news, regional paper Aamulehti reports on an ongoing celebrity vlogging tour that reached Tampere on Friday.

TubeTour 2017 is a nearly two-month-long series of events wherein famous Finnish YouTubers meet and greet each other and their fans. The events are spectacularly popular among teenagers, who get a chance to see their online heroes in real life – and take a slew of selfies with them, AL writes.

The tour involves a stage show, live gaming, interactive crowd events and a backstage meet and greet. The tour ends in a party cruise on April 1.

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