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Monday's papers: Confusing start to jobless activation, Finland's blind eye to domestic violence, and Altia's IPO

The newspapers in Finland this Monday talk with employment offices about how the roll-out of the new so-called activation model has gone. They also shine a light on one-third of Finnish women reporting violence, and the state-owned alcohol producer Altia's listing on the stock market today.

Koskenkorva-pulloja Altian tuotantolaitoksella Rajamäellä.
Bottles of Koskenkorva at the Rajamäki plant Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

We start the week with a story from the southwest paper Turun Sanomat that talks about the initial confusion surrounding the new unemployment activation model.

Employment offices, known as TE offices in Finland, reported major congestion at the start of 2018 because they had no specific instructions from the ministry about how to implement the new model. The paper spoke with TE office representatives in several locations, who say that they had to wait until February before they knew exactly what criteria jobseekers had to fill to avoid benefit cuts. In the meantime, angry customers were forced to wait.

The new activation model cuts unemployment benefits by 4.65 percent if jobseekers can't prove they have done at least 18 hours of salaried work, earned 241 euros as an entrepreneur or participated in at least 5 days of training in the last three months. Finland's centre-right government has said it will review the model in March to iron out any difficulties.

TS reports the state benefits administrator Kela estimated last week that if the new model would have come into effect already in December, over half of the people receiving some kind of unemployment benefit would have not met the criteria and faced a cut to their monthly benefit.

Most really want to work

Juhani Sundell, director of the Satakunta region's TE office, says Kela's figures sound correct to him, but emphasizes that often people seeing their benefits cut are more than willing to work.

"Most of the customers are serious about getting work and have submitted dozens of job applications to no avail," he tells TS.

The paper says that the TE office representatives they spoke to are virtually unanimous in saying that the new model appears to be successful in activating jobseekers to find work and seek out training.

"We have received feedback from employers that open positions are filling up more quickly and more people are enquiring about work," Mari Tuomikoski of the North Ostrobothnia TE office tells the paper.

One in every three Finnish women has faced abuse

Next, the country's widest-read daily, Helsingin Sanomat, takes a closer look at a black splotch on Finland's human rights record: violence against women.

The paper says that studies have found that Finland is the second-most dangerous country in Europe to be a woman. Widespread domestic violence contributes to statistics that show that up to one-third of women in Finland have been abused by their partner. In 2016, 80 percent of the victims of domestic violence in Finland were identified as women.

The human rights organisation Amnesty has called attention to this problem for years, and UN committees have criticized the government for its insufficient response.

"We are a welfare state with a blind spot: violence against women," Amnesty Finland's gender discrimination specialist Pia Puu Oksanen tells HS.

Shame keeps cases unreported

A pan-European study found that most women do not contact the authorities after incidents of domestic violence. A 2016 police barometer in Finland estimated that 80 percent of cases are not reported to the police. Kaisa Åberg from Finland's domestic abuse hotline Naisten Linja (tel. 0800 02400) says if a call is made, the situation at home has already become very bad.

"As long as our societal discourse makes people ashamed of the violence they have been subjected to, we too are responsible for perpetuating a culture of violence," she tells HS.

The paper speaks with Paula, who suffered violence at the hands of her husband for years before seeking help and filing for a divorce. She says that it was the embarrassment, in addition to fatigue and the need to struggle through daily life with her children that prevented her from telling anyone about it.

"It was so harrowing to notice that I had become a beaten wife. I was ashamed of behalf of both of us."

Buying alcohol shares

And Tampere-based Aamulehti reports this Monday that the state-owned alcohol producer Altia will start selling shares on the Nasdaq Helsinki stock exchange today. The paper travels to areas where the firm's most popular products are made.

The western Finland city of Ilmajoki is home to one of the Finnish plants that makes Koskenkorva, Finland's iconic vodka brand. AL says Ilmajoki Mayor Seppo Pirttikoski has said his municipality is interested in investing in some Altia shares, although legal statutes about funding prevent the city from extensive action in this area. The plant employs some 70 people directly and many more indirectly.

Nurmijärvi in the south is home to a second Altia plant in Rajamäki, where 250 people work. Acting Mayor Outi Mäkelä says her municipality has made no plans to buy shares in the IPO, but "of course we wish them every success and hope that Finnish people will be enthusiastic. The Altia brand is strongly connected to being 'made in Finland'", she says.

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