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Thursday's papers: Basic income v "activation", pandas arrive in Ähtäri, and a Finnish gift for British royal

The press on Thursday includes stories on Finland's social security policies, panda arrivals in Ostrobothnia, and a gift for Meghan Markle from Finland.

Jin Bao Bao nimistä Pandaa siirretään lentokentälle Kiinan Dujiangyanissa.
Pandas on their way to Ähtäri. Image: AFP

Finland's basic income trial has been one of the most-covered stories in the international press in recent years. The trial itself has been criticised for its lack of ambition, as a limited experiment including only unemployed people rather than a full basic income trial involving the whole community, but it remains the biggest trial of its kind and--despite the limits--it's the number one destination for journalists looking into the idea of a basic income.

Helsingin Sanomat looks at the trial and its public faces in the light of the government's recently-introduced activation model, which uses a big stick of benefit cuts for unemployed people who fail to find work. The basic income trial, meanwhile, offers unemployed people a guaranteed sum in benefits each month regardless of how much work they do. HS characterises this as the carrot approach.

Finland's social insurance institution, Kela, has not released details about participants or any interim results on the trial, and therefore the coverage in Finnish and international media has been a bit of a lottery. Those who put themselves forward tend to be the better-educated people with English language skills, who are perhaps less representative of Finland's long-term unemployed.

HS finds that its two subjects, who it has interviewed at regular intervals, have both found work and have done more care work and volunteering. Both say they're shocked at the 'active model' and the punishment it includes as persuasive measures.

Experts interviewed by the paper suggest that the trial might help prove that something like a basic income--if not a basic income itself--could be necessary in future. And even if that isn't one of the legacies, Olli Kärkkäinen of Nordea bank says the plentiful positive publicity will do wonders for Finland's image as a social innovator.

Panda arrival

Finland's borrowed pandas arrive on Thursday after a long journey from China, and Aamulehti reports that they are almost certain to be on show at Ähtäri Zoo in Ostrobothnia from 17 February. The delay is due to a required quarantine period after the animals change countries.

Ticket sales have, the zoo tells AL, gone well. The animal park is hoping to double visitor numbers thanks to the pandas, and that should boost their revenues significantly thanks to eye-wateringly high ticket prices.

AL reports that the cost of a visit to see the pandas at Ähtäri will be some 92 euros for a family of four. That's more than double the price charged by Berlin Zoo, at 41 euros. And with the best will in the world to Ähtäri, Berlin has a few other attractions besides the pandas.

Meghan's present

Finland has no royal family (unless you count footballer Jari Litmanen, which you shouldn't), and that ensures Finns are pretty excited and interested in royals from other countries. Prince William's visit to Helsinki last year brought excited crowds onto the streets despite the inclement weather, and Ilta-Sanomat on Thursday digs out one more story stemming from the Prince's stay.

He apparently brought back an apron for Meghan Markle, his brother's fiancée, according to Hello magazine. That's all the information available on the gift, apart from what Harry and Meghan had already revealed: he had proposed to her while the couple were cooking dinner.

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