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Monday's papers: 2021 budget, Siberian winter, international visas and primary school distance learning

Morning newspapers analyse the state spending budget for 2021.

Grafik med staplar
The state spending projection for 2021 is 13.1 percent higher than last year. Image: Miro Johansson

Finland's largest daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the Finnish state will spend 65.2 billion euros in this year's budget, which is considerably more than in any previous year and 13.1 percent higher than last year.

Approximately 1.7 billion euros has been budgeted directly for tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Of this amount, 1.4 billion will be spent on testing and tracing required by Finland's hybrid strategy, based on the “test, trace, isolate and treat” approach.

In addition, grants of 0.2 billion euros have been set aside for hospital districts and municipalities for other direct costs of the coronavirus situation.

The budget for unemployment security, general housing and basic income support is estimated to increase by a total of 0.8 from last year's budget. Most of the growth is in unemployment security spending, due to the pandemic.

Last year, when the government first set out its plans for the 2021 budget, opposition parties criticised it heavily, with National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo describing the package as a "disappointment" and lacking in concrete measures to achieve its ambitious employment targets.

Siberian cold front is just around the corner

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that the milder temperatures seen at the beginning of the week are only temporary, as the mercury is due to dip again towards the end of the week due to a cold front arriving from Siberia.

A meteorologist from weather service Foreca predicted a long and cold winter, and said temperatures are likely to be up to ten degrees colder than average.

Plans to make international specialist recruitment a smoother process

Foreign specialists recruited to Finland often face bureaucracy and long processing times on their Finnish residency application – but this is set to change, reports business magazine Talouselämä.

At worst, newly recruited employees arriving from outside the EU sometimes face a months-long process to finalise the visa requirements for residency in Finland. At the moment, visas are issued by consulates, which often makes the process convoluted.

An international visa – issued to employees arriving to work for a well-known company or educational institution in Finland – would make the process much faster.

The Confederation of Finnish Industries has proposed a model where an international specialist could apply for residency after arriving in the country. This would enable workers to start employment immediately, while the final checks required for a residence permit are still being processed in Finland. At the moment, visa applicants can't be in Finland while their residence permit is being processed.

Talouselämä says that currently, Finland is the only Schengen state that does not have such a system.

Primary schools may have to switch to distance learning

The new Minister of Education Jussi Saramo, standing in during Li Andersson's maternity leave, considers it possible that primary schools will have to switch to distance learning nationwide due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus variant, reports farmers' union daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

According to new modelling by the researchers, the British variant of coronavirus is 56 percent more contagious than other strains of the virus.

Saramo said the ministry is preparing for the need to move to distance learning in primary schools. Secondary education has already been moved to remote learning, while primary schools and early childhood education have remained open.

"Distance learning would cause huge problems for families and children. I hope that children and young people will only be placed in distance education when experts believe that the measure will have a significant impact on the spread of the disease", he said.

So far, infections in Finland have been traced mainly outside schools, the minister points out. According to him, restrictions should be put in place where infections are spreading the most, such as international arrivals into the country and bars.

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