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Friday's papers: Risks grow in national assessment, mid-income earners dwindle, Centre Party dips in survey

Newspapers take a look at the Interior Ministry's new risk report, the growing earnings divide and the shifting popularity of Finland's political parties.

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A food distribution centre prepares to distribute food to people in the bread line outside. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Among February's first news items in the press is a brand new report by the Ministry of the Interior that details a list of threats to Finnish society – and the risk of them happening appears to be increasing.

Daily Ilta-Sanomat writes that the Ministry-produced National Risk Assessment documents 20 "major risks" that could critically destabilise Finland unless the government intervenes with exceptional measures. The Ministry compiles the report every three years; the most recent document was submitted to the European Commission in December.

The list of dangers mentioned by IS includes complications from medicine-resistant microbes, contagious animal-borne diseases, disturbances in water and food production and marine catastrophes.

But the number one threat raised in the assessment relates to power supply disruptions, as blackouts could affect almost the whole country in one fell swoop. Likely causes of such failures include extreme weather conditions.

"Climate warming, for instance, increases the risks of known extreme weather phenomena, such as floods, storms and forest fires," said Taito Vainio, strategic steering director for the Ministry, who was in charge of preparing the risk assessment.

"At the same time, it creates new, more slowly evolving risks. In recent years, forest damage and long blackouts have been the most visible impact of weather phenomena."

IS writes that the compilers of the risk assessment themselves are open about their work being problematic. The real statistical risk of the threats listed cannot be mathematically predicted, and the data analysis tends to follow trends in daily politics and the press, even though risks and "black swans" (unforeseen high-risk phenomena) should be projected many years into the future.

Statistics Finland: Middle class vanishing

Amid hypothetical social rumblings, Statistics Finland reports that the country's bracket of middle-income earners is shrinking fast.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that in 1995 more than half of people in Finland (52.3 percent) were assessed as having mid-range incomes. In 2017 that figure had dropped to 44.3 percent.

"The extremes are deepening," said statistician Pekka Ruotsalainen in HS. "The same phenomenon can be seen in the distribution of wealth, as money flows toward the same high-income people."

Another way to put the figures is to say that in 1995 people living with low incomes – referring to salaries totaling a maximum of 60 percent of the country's median salary – numbered at 7.8 percent of the population. In 2017 that number had risen to 12.8 percent.

Essentially, writes HS, both rich and poor have more to spend now than twenty years earlier; that is, the whole country has gotten subjectively richer, but the distribution of that wealth is even less equal than before.

Centre Party dives, Greens gain cross-party support

The latest Alma Media polling of Finland's political parties makes headlines in all the country's papers this Friday. Regional daily Aamulehti runs with the outright loser of the survey: the Centre Party's popularity has fallen to under 15 percent for the first time in the pollster's history.

The party also suffered the biggest losses in the latest poll, by 1.1 percentage points down to 14.4 percent. As early as 2015 the party held strong at 21.1 percent popularity.

The Alma survey asked the question, "If the parliamentary elections were to be held immediately, which party or group and which candidate would you vote for?" Most replies tagged the Social Democratic Party as their favourite, at 21 percent of respondents.

In terms of loyalty, supporters of the Swedish People's Party were the most likely (67 percent) to vote for their own party.

AL also writes that the Greens, while staying at a stable 13-percent popularity, were named by the highest number of respondents as a possible "plan B" after their favourite party: 22 percent of National Coalition Party voters, 34 percent of SDP voters and 42 percent of Left Alliance supporters said they could swing over to the Greens in a parliamentary election.

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