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Thursday’s papers: Face mask airlift, family leave reform and unequal pay for hurdler

Coronavirus remains a concern for Finnish media.

Neziri, Korte, Hurske
Nooralotta Neziri (left) will be paid less than Annemari Korte (centre) and Reetta Hurske (right) in 2020. Image: AOP / Jaakko Stenroos

Fresh from the recovery of Finland’s first coronavirus patient, Helsignin Sanomat has found another local angle on the outbreak.

The paper’s lead domestic story is an item on how Finland’s Chinese community is mobilising to buy up facemasks and disinfectant to send to China, where there is a severe shortage of both.

Jenni Chen-Ye says that since the end of January she and her Chinese association have been gathering items from across the Helsinki region, packaging them up, and sending them to China.

It’s not a simple task, as such exports require several permits from the Chinese authorities and an invitation to do so.

Flight cancellations also make it more difficult, but Chen-Ye uses a firm named Shentong that is able to send the medical supplies free of charge.

It’s part of an effort worldwide by Chinese communities to gather and send the supplies to China. Chen-Ye says she’s even been asked by officials in China if they could purchase the items from Finland in bulk, but she has no way of acquiring the huge numbers required.

Family leave reform in the spotlight

Several papers cover the announcement on Wednesday of the government’s model to reform family leave.

Aamulehti reports that Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, the Minister for Social Affairs and Health, announced on Wednesday that the new model would raise the total amount of time new parents can spend off work on income-linked payments from 11.5 months to 14 months.

The catch is that the time must now be split more equally between men and women, with 6.6 months allocated to each parent and a month of ‘pregnancy leave’ for the expectant mother.

Each parent can ‘lend’ three months of their quota to the other parent, but 3.6 months is ‘use it or lose it’ time.

The goal is to encourage fathers to take more parental leave. At present some 25 percent of fathers don’t take any leave at all when they welcome a new arrival, and less than half of fathers spend any time at all at home on their own looking after their kids.

Pekonen said clearly on Wednesday that the reform, which is expected to reduce employment rates by 5,000 if fathers take their allocation of leave, was not a measure to improve employment but something to improve the lives of children and families.

A Kauppalehti editorial criticised the reform for its effect on employment, but added that the worst part was that it did nothing to reform home care allowance.

That is the monthly payment made after parental leave finishes, if a parent stays at home. It’s much smaller but allows parents — usually mothers — to stay off work for another year and a half caring for their kids.

KL reckons the allowance is bad for women’s career development and pay, and regrets that it wasn’t considered in this proposal.

Hurdler left on half-pay

Finland’s idiosyncratic way of funding elite sport is covered in Ilta-Sanomat, which reports on a differential in pay for one elite Finnish hurdler.

Track athlete Nooralotta Neziri will receive a grant of only 10,000 euros in 2020 from the country’s Olympic Committee, while her fellow hurdlers Annemari Korte and Reetta Hurske, along with triple-jumper Kristiina Mäkelä, will receive 20,000 euros.

The decision was made by Sports Minister Hanna Kosonen against the recommendation of the Olympic Committee, which assessed the applications based on its own criteria.

Those criteria state that an athlete has to be at an elite level internationally and a potential medallist at the next Olympics to receive the higher payments.

IS did not carry a quote from Kosonen on her decision, and Mika Lehtimäki from the Olympic Committee told the paper he was happy that athletes got more money.

Neziri could not be given more than 10,000 euros as that was what she applied for, while the other three asked for more.

Lehtimäki said that by the time the Olympic Committee received the applications the deadline had passed and they could not urge Neziri to change her paperwork.

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