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Thursday's papers: Boosting employment, mild winter woes, end of an iconic image

Among morning newspaper reports is speculation that restrictions may be eased on employing non-EU/EEA citizens.

Many blue-collar jobs still prioritise EU/EEA citizens. Image: Rafael Ben-Ari / AOP

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, reports that the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Sanna Marin is preparing for talks on means to boost employment. The first brainstorming session, it says, is set for the 29th of this month.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the government has a long list of possible measures, and the paper quotes its source as saying that "no stone will be left unturned".

It writes that among the actions that will be under consideration are cuts to home child care allowances, setting a cap on how long students can spend finishing a degree, and a programme linking employment and measures to fight climate change.

Also, the government is said to be looking at promoting work-based immigration by further easing or eliminating the so-called "labour availability consideration" - that is restrictions on the types of work where EU and EEA citizens are given priority.

With a few exceptions, it is standard hiring practice in Finland to prioritise hiring job applicants who are citizens of an EU member state or a country that is a part of the European Economic Area.

In practice, these restrictions most heavily impact blue-collar jobs. Before an employer can recruit workers from outside the EU/EEA local employment offices have to evaluate the need and issue an exemption.

Helsingin Sanomat says that easing these restrictions is a difficult issue for parties on the political left because of fears that opening up the labour market to more non-EU/EEA workers could undermine the terms of current labour contracts.

One approach being discussed is the total elimination of these restrictions. Another is to lift restrictions in some regions of the country. Helsingin Sanomat writes that the latter idea has gained ground especially within the Swedish People's Party because many companies in Ostrobothnia, one of its main areas of voter support, are suffering from a shortage of workers.

A third approach would be to shift decisions on whether or no foreign labour is needed from the local level to a national authority.

The government is also said to be looking at ways to increase international recruitment of workers. Responsibility for work-based immigration was recently shifted from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, something Helsingin Sanomat believes could speed up change.

More mild winter woes

Finland's main Swedish-language newspaper, the Helsinki-based Hufvudstadsbladet, reports that the exceptionally warm winter entered a new phase on Wednesday when several local high-temperature records were measured at the Meteorological Institute's weather stations in different parts of the country.

A high of 7.7C was seen in Hämeenlinna Wednesday afternoon, 7.6C in Kouvola and 8.1 degrees in Heinola.

In a separate article, Hufvudstadsbladet reports that Finnish Ski Association says that if skiing is going to have a future in southern parts of the country, there will have to be more artificial snow tracks built and managed.

Skiing remains a popular winter activity. According to the Ski Association, almost 40 percent of Finns ski at least once a year.

However, at least in southern parts of the country, cross-country skiing as a sport and hobby can no longer rely on natural winter conditions. And skiers should not be forced to make expensive trips north, says the Ski Association. The answer looks to be more artificial snow.

”It is important to produce as much snow as possible with snow cannons when it is cold, and then store the snow over the summer under a thick layer of sawdust, Ideally as close to the track as possible to reduce transport. Then a four-month long season from December to March should be possible," Eero Hietanen, of the Finnish Ski Association told the paper.

Hietanen also pointed out that this will cost money. One idea being floated is to impose fees for the use of local municipal ski tracks furnished with artificial snow. These, he said could for example charge 10 euros for a single day of skiing, or 30-100 euros for a season ticket.

Also among warm winter reports is one in the tabloid Iltalehti noting that higher temperatures have some ticks on the move, at least in the Turku area in the southwest. However, it points out that according to experts, special precautions are probably not necessary as the vast majority of the little blood-suckers will remain in hibernation until temperatures are much higher than are now forecast.

Iconic image passing away

The Raisio foodstuffs group on Wednesday announced a new strategy aimed at increasing its oat products business on international markets.

As a part of that strategy, it also announced that it was changing the packaging of its Elovena oat-based products.

Item continues after photo.

Elovena-tyttö uudessa sinisessä mekossa ja vieressä vanha kansallispukuinen Elovena-tyttö.
On the right, Raisio's traditional "Elovena girl". One the left, the image to be used in the company's new marketing strategy. Image: Raisio

Over the past 95 years, the company's packaging which featured the image of a blond woman in folk dress holding a sheaf of oats has become somewhat of a national icon. Known as the "Elovena girl", it has even entered the language to describe a stereotypical blond, blue-eyed Finnish female.

Kuopio's Savon Sanomat is among the papers that reports that Raisio's decision to replace the image with one of a woman in a simple, more modern frock caused a minor social media storm overnight.

The hashtag #Elovena shot to the top of the Twitter trend list in Finland.

There was both praise and criticism. Some people saw the move as slap at the rural population, some as a welcome upgrade.

One wit suggested, "Why not just put the Elovena girl in a Marimekko flower-print dress holding a Moomin troll coffee mug? Once you rebrand, you might as well do it properly."

Few people though could honestly disagree with the comment, "I would never have believed that something as bland as oatmeal could excite the emotions of the Finns to a fever pitch."

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