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Thursday's papers: High taxes, housing benefits and wolf sightings

There has been a rise in wolf sightings in North Karelia.

Susi Ähtärin eläinpuistossa
Image: Pasi Takkunen / Yle

Are Finnish taxes too high? Finnish taxes are always on the political agenda, and on Thursday Helsingin Sanomat reports on a comparison aimed at illustrating just how high they are.

The Taxpayers Association of Finland (TAF) compared the amount of taxes paid in European countries, concluding that Finland taxes wages heavily and does not encourage higher incomes.

TAF’s lead economist, Mikael Kirkko-Jaakkola, says Finland’s wage taxation is characterised by “steep progression and high marginal taxes.”

The marginal tax rate is the incremental tax paid on incremental income. The higher the income, the higher the taxes levied on a salary increase.

The average yearly salary in Finland in 2018 was 45,000 euros, which translates into a 2.8 percentage point higher tax percentage than in other European countries on average.

A 100-euro salary increase would mean 47.9 euros taken off as tax, meaning the marginal tax rate for that earning bracket is 47.9 percent. In Sweden, the equivalent marginal tax rate is 33.5 percent.

TAF says that high marginal tax rates do not incentivise Finnish employees to earn more or even advance their careers.

New group of people reliant on housing benefits emerges

Kela statistics reveal the number of people receiving housing benefit has risen significantly in Helsinki, reports business magazine Talouselämä.

The capital has seen a notable increase in people who are in work seeking the benefit.

Between February last year and November this year, there has been an increase of 12 percent of households claiming housing benefit.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit under 30-year-olds in the capital particularly hard.

In addition to the pandemic, changes in work contracts can also be linked to the increase. Part-time, fixed-term and zero-hours contracts have put employees in a precarious position, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Often, earnings from these kinds of jobs does not guarantee enough regular income for the level of rent usually required in the capital region.

This has led to the emergence of a new group that is permanently reliant on housing benefits, according to Mari Randell, Housing Programme Manager at the city of Helsinki.

Have you seen a wolf recently?

There has been a sharp increase in wolf sightings in a municipality near the Russian border in Northern Karelia, says Finnish farmers’ union daily Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.

The area is home to three of Finland’s four large predators: bears, wolves and wolverines. Wolf sightings are not rare in the region – but it is unusual that they are seen near people’s residences.

The increase in sightings near housing has also meant people are increasingly on the lookout for predators, which has contributed to the increase in reports.

Last year, there were 26 reports of wolves visiting gardens or grounds. This year, 490 sightings have been recorded.

Local residents have expressed concern about the wolves attacking or killing dogs. So far in the North Karelian municipality of Tohmajärvi, wolves have reportedly killed five dogs, worth over 20,000 euros.

Usually, wolves and the locals have been able to co-exist peacefully, but there are talks of applying for a special hunting license to shoot wolves that come too close to houses, according to Mika Susi, Chair of the region’s gamekeeping association.

The Finnish Wildlife Agency grants permissions to shoot bears, wolves or lynx under special circumstances.

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