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Monday’s papers: Unemployment problems, a biathlon win, and the “Squirrel Whisperer”

Finland's press reports on job market challenges, a gold in the Biathlon World Cup, and a young Finn's nature photography.

Luontovalokuvaaja Konsta Punkan ottama kuva ketusta Lappeenrannassa
Nature photographer Konsta Punkkka's image of a fox taken in Lappeenranta. Image: Konsta Punkka

Helsingin Sanomat looks at the jobs market situation in Finland, and reports that with around 300,000 people currently receiving some form of unemployment benefit, there is now "intense pressure" on new PM Sanna Marin’s government to find solutions to a growing problem.

HS breaks the benefits figure down into different categories and scenarios - such as those receiving earnings-related unemployment allowance or home care allowance - and looks at the problems and potential solutions for each group.

One group of particular concern is the high, and increasing, number of people receiving either the basic unemployment allowance or the labour market subsidy - which is paid to the long-term jobless.

A large proportion of these people have seen their benefits cut for a number of different reasons, HS writes, despite the fact that recent studies have shown such cuts alone do not significantly affect the employment prospects of the long-term unemployed.

The government, therefore, should help those who find it difficult to find jobs by reforming employment services instead, and HS identifies wage subsidies as being one key area for the government to reform.

Wage subsidies mean that part of the employer's salary costs is paid from public fund, and changes to the current system could help employers to better understand and use this option, thereby reducing the onus on state coffers, according to HS.

Biathlete’s birthday gold

All papers in Finland report on the success of Kaisa Mäkäräinen in a Biathlon World Cup event in Oberhof, Germany, with tabloid Iltalehti writing that the three-time world cup winner celebrated her birthday on Saturday with the runaway win on Sunday.

The biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

Iltalehti reports that Mäkäräinen battled through the fog and wind at the venue to lead the field, finishing in first place a massive 30 seconds ahead of Norwegian Tirill Eckhoff.

"This is unbelievable. I was the oldest in this race," Mäkäräinen - who turned 37 on Saturday - said. "It feels great to be on the podium and in the highest position. I hope I will not get any questions about my age today."

Instagram fame for young Finn

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat looks at the most popular Finnish accounts on the photo and video-sharing social networking site Instagram, and finds a surprising name in third place.

Coming in behind the Formula 1 star Kimi Räikkönen (1.7 million followers) and the Kurdish singer and actor Helly Luv (1.6 million followers), who grew up in Lahti, is nature photographer Konsta Punkka.

Text continues after Instagram post.

Kpukka instagram NIE

IS writes that Punkka found his niche during a visit to the Helsinki island of Seurasaari in 2012, when squirrels started to trust the young photographer so much that they felt secure enough to appear right in front of his lens. The resulting close up photos went viral and earned Punkka the nickname, the "Squirrel Whisperer".

Punkka has since built on this success, with his now 1.3 million followers treated to photos of foxes, deer, reindeer, bears, owls, mice and sheep, as well as more exotic animals such as elephants, leopards and antelopes. According to IS, the images are united by two things that are perhaps the secret of the young Finnish photographer's popularity: the look and expression of the subject.

"It's important to me that the animal sees me at the moment I shoot the image. Then I can take a picture of what the animal feels when they see me," Punkka explains to the tabloid. "For me, the perfect picture is an emotional shot … one where the animal expresses something about that moment and where the photographer's feeling is reflected in the animal."

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