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Monday's papers: Housing allowance costs, future of jobs and early language education

Today's papers in Finland discuss rising housing allowance costs, teaching young kids languages and jobs that just might survive advancing digitalisation.

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Image: Terhi Varjonen/Yle

Daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus reports the Finnish state now spends more on residents' housing support than it does on agricultural subsidies. According to the paper, last year the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela) paid 2 billion euros to help low-income households to meet their housing costs, about 100 million more than it paid to farmers in the form of subsidies.

The increase was largely been driven by Kela’s new policies introduced last year under which students became eligible for the general housing allowance. In addition, higher rents especially in the Helsinki area have likely caused a rise in the number of people who receive the maximum rental allowance, says Heidi Kemppinen from Kela.

Long-term unemployment is another driver of higher rental allowance costs, MS says.

“There is a strong correlation between benefits like labour market subsidies and housing allowance," Kemppinen says.

Currently, about 837,000 people in Finland receive housing subsidies. That figure includes underage children living in such households. On average, Kela pays hands out housing support amounting to some 320 euros per month to those households.

Surviving jobs

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat lists nine professions which it reckons will survive in this age of advancing digitalisation. IS reassures readers that jobs will not disappear outright but some of the tasks those jobs entail will be taken over by machines.

At the same time, although many routine tasks will be automatised, humans will continue to carry out assignments requiring creativity or problem-solving skills, the paper writes. In addition, there will be work available in fields where human contact forms an essential part of the work, such as health care or teaching.

However, Ilta-Sanomat also points out that says low salaries are to blame for the shortages of cooks. According to IS, a starting salary for cooks hovers between 1,700-1,800 euros per month, and on average cooks make about 2,000 euros.

But given the number of media reports in recent years about advancing technologies of autonomous vehicles, the paper unexpectedly predicts that jobs in the taxi and delivery sectors will also survive digitalisation.

Nine jobs unlikely to vanish due to digitalisation:

  1. Cooks
  2. Marketing, communications and design experts
  3. Health care workers
  4. Teachers
  5. Information and cyber security experts
  6. Human resources specialists
  7. Transportation and logistics workers
  8. Data scientists
  9. Freelancers/seasonal workers, including taxi drivers and couriers.

Foreign language teaching

Meanwhile, Rovaniemi-based daily Lapin Kansa reports that instruction in foreign languages will begin during the first grade in all Finnish schools next year. This move will put all school children on equal footing, in contrast to previous years, when language teaching trials have mostly taken place in southern Finnish schools.

Earlier this year government voted to begin teaching foreign languages to all first-graders, starting in 2019.

“Until now, large cities and bilingual towns on the coast have offered foreign language instruction in the early years. From now on, however, the chance to learn a foreign language early on is no longer dependent on where the child lives,” says minister for education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

"This adds to educational equality," she says.

Some parents have expressed concerns that introducing a foreign language to children so early will hamper learning of their mother tongues. Many first-graders can't read or write in their mother tongue at that stage.

But professor Riitta Pyykkö from the University of Turku says pupils will not mix up languages - as long as lessons are clearly separated from each other.

"Learning a language could slow down a bit, but it doesn’t mean that the child could not become proficient."

Introducing a foreign language from the first year on will translate into one additional lesson for first and second graders per week.

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