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Friday's papers: Gov't-unions tension, stock market dives, winter creeping in

Most newspapers Friday headline a move by the government to tweak labour law proposals in order to ease tensions with unions.

kävely liukkaalla kelillä.
Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Prime Minister Juha Siplilä's government announced late yesterday that it is willing to compromise on its controversial proposal to ease employee dismissals in small firms.

While the wording of the new proposal is somewhat convoluted, Kuopio's Savon Sanomat boils it down to the simple change of dropping the "companies with less than 10 employees" provision from the bill.

Key labour union federations are to formulate a response this afternoon. According to this paper, the Prime Minister is earnestly hoping that the dispute with unions can be settled and laid to rest.

The government's argument is that strict regulation of dismissals makes smaller companies unduly wary about hiring new employees.

Finance Minister Petteri Orpo claimed yesterday that making it easier to fire workers will create large numbers of new jobs, possibly tens of thousands of them in smaller firms.

Savon Sanomat points out that a number of economists believe that the impact of easier dismissals on overall employment would be minor. Some, however, believe it could have a positive effect on productivity.

The government's bill also drops the 90-day loss of unemployment benefits automatically imposed by a dismissal to a 60-day loss instead for all former employees, regardless of the size of the company they are fired from.

Stock market takes a dive

Helsingin Sanomat today notes that the Finnish economy is growing, companies are making investments, and results of up. However, it says that you couldn't tell by looking at the Helsinki Stock Exchange.

The exchange's general index has come down sharply during October. Over a tenth of the value of shares has melted away in one month.

On Thursday, it reports, the general index dipped below 9000 points, its lowest since February 2017.

The paper goes on with an in-depth look at factors in the European and global economy that have impacted the stock market, and sums up with comments from one of Finland's largest investors, Risto Murto, CEO of the Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company.

"Growth prospects in Europe and China have weakened. Uncertainty about the future among industrial companies right now is greater than it was a year ago."

It adds that Finland's small investors are also plagued by uncertainty and some are wondering if it is now worthwhile selling off their holdings. To that question, neither Murto, nor anyone else, can give a solid answer, writes Helsingin Sanomat.

On the same topic, the economic and business daily Kauppalehti writes that investors are now wondering if the market is just going through a period of adjustment, or a long-term displacement. In any case, markets will remain volatile for some time to come.

Kauppalehti also points out that traditionally a fall in the market has foreshadowed a downswing in the economy. Prospects, it writes, look even gloomier because of poor preparations for a new recession. The banking sector is in better shape than it was before the last economic crisis, but governments are in greater debt and the arsenal of measures available to central banks has already been depleted.

Slippin' and slidin'

The tabloid Iltalehti today advises readers they'll be needing a woolen cap and extra alertness behind the wheel as winter weather makes inroads in central and northern parts of the country.

Increasingly cold air is moving in from the north, bringing local sleet and snow.

With that in mind, a column by Mikko Niimes in today's Aamulehti says out that around one-third of all accidents registered in Finland annually are caused by slipping and falling on ice and snow.

Keeping streets and walkways safe in winter is a costly business. Niimes reports that between 2008-2017, the City of Tampere spent an average 4.46 million euros every winter for snow and ice removal. Simply sanding slippery walkways, then cleaning up the sand in the spring last year cost the city 1.6 million.

In addition, the city receives dozens of claims for damages every year from people who are injured in wintertime falls.

Boomers making way

The freesheet Metro reports on a demographic shift.

Quoting figures from Statistics Finland, the paper notes that people born in 1948 have lost their position as the largest single age group in the country, a status held for the past 22 years.

They have now been replaced by people born in 1963, all 75,223 of them. There are only a few hundred more 55 year-olds than 70 year-olds, but that's enough to give them first ranking.

At the end of September, Finland's population stood at 5,520,535.

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