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Monday's papers: Hand washing, pandemic pregnancy and male municipalities

Papers explore kids returning to school in the pandemic, how corona job loss hits new mothers and the voting gender gap.

Tuleva äiti tutkiin äitiyspakkauksen sisältöä.
Kela revamped its system for calculating parental leave benefits right before the pandemic hit. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Educators in Finland seem to feel it is largely safe to open schools now given the low infections rates during the last two weeks of the spring term when contact teaching resumed after a two-month break.

"Half our day will be spent washing hands," one school principal told Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet.

Helsinki is not too concerned about epidemic outbreaks among pupils, writes HBL, suggesting that the city is basing this view on experiences from the last two weeks of May when pupils were let back into classrooms to finish the academic year.

"We recorded very few coronavirus cases in schools in May--and these were not cases that spread among pupils. It was a situation where adults infected children," said Niclas Grönholm from Helsinki’s education department.

Pandemic pinches benefits

Finland’s falling birthrate is unlikely to turn around as the pandemic is further exacerbating job insecurity among young women in Finland. Nearly a third of 25-34 year-old women in the country work on fixed-term contracts, according to Ilta-Sanomat.

At the beginning of the year, benefits agency Kela recalculated parental leave benefits to reflect income earned in the 12 months immediately preceding the arrival of a baby (instead of basing benefits on the latest tax year). A few months after this change, Finland saw a historical wave of layoffs that particularly affected the female-dominated service sector, meaning many new mothers will see their benefits shrink.

In some special cases, Kela will calculate benefits based on the last three months before the due date.

"It’s a pretty interesting idea that a woman’s income would be better at the very end of her pregnancy," Annica Moore of the Mothers in Business network told IS.

Voting gender gap

A growing number of Finnish municipalities are becoming male-dominated--a trend that may be be a boon for the populist Finns Party, writes national daily Helsingin Sanomat.

In Finland men make up 49.4 percent of the population. However 204 of Finland's 310 municipalities are home to more men than women. Statistics show that more women than men emigrate from Finland while newcomers to the country tend to be male.

Åbo Akademi sociologist Mika Helander said that as heavy industry jobs disappear, more men will enter traditionally female-dominated care jobs--something that has yet to happen. Economic issues meanwhile tend to weigh more heavily in male voters’ minds than those pertaining to social policy, according to pollster Taloustutkimus.

Juho Rahkonen of Taloustutkimus said far-right populist ideas have struck a chord with working-class men--a phenomenon that was evident in the rise of the Finns Party in 2011.

In last year’s parliamentary elections, the Finns Party attracted the highest proportion of male voters compared to any other political group.

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