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Thursday's papers: Homework for educators, growing segregation and lengthening bread lines

Although many of the day’s papers are still caught up in the afterglow of Tuesday's glitzy presidential ball and the triumphal – if brief – return home of Finnish X-Factor hopeful Saara Aalto, Thursday’s print editions also cover more serious issues such as urban segregation, Finland’s slip in global education rankings, and rising poverty.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

As Finland descends from its temporary high fuelled by hopes of a big win in the UK's high-profile X Factor talent search and glittering Independence Day celebrations, tabloid daily Ilta-Sanomat reports from Stockholm on more serious matters.

IS interviewed Finnish Nobel economics laureate Bengt Holmström, who spoke with international media ahead of formally receiving his Nobel award. IS predictably asked the Nobel winner how to get the Finnish economy up off its knees.

Holmström reiterated many of the prescriptions he has already shared, including changing economic structures, creating more flexibility in the labour market and activating people to get out and work. He said that workers should be able to agree terms and conditions of work with employers more freely.

However the economics professor pointed out that he’s not advocating reducing salaries in Finland. He also called for work to be done building a greater sense of community to help add meaning to peoples' lives.

Asked whether Finland could still boast one of the world’s best education systems, Holmström said that while the education system is good, there was no room for complacency. He noted that the system still performed well in areas that are easy to measure but noted that work still needs to be done in other areas.

"Finnish schooling is good for teaching literacy and numeracy, but not necessarily for teaching communication and presentation skills," he noted.

Open market, immigration and income gaps driving urban segregation

Leading-circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat examines research on segregation in major cities and finds that while Helsinki can claim the crown for being one of Europe’s least segregated cities, there’s work still to be done.

"Segregation is increasing in Helsinki as well," said Dutch researcher Maarten van Ham, who visited Helsinki with his Estonian colleague Tiit Tammaru to present their research. The pair published a comparison of 18 European capitals that covers ten years between 2001 and 2011.

Research head Timo Kauppinen of the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL said that the agency is just beginning to review the phenomenon in Helsinki, Turku and Tampere in collaboration with the Dutch and Estonian experts.

Helsinki has actively worked to combat segregation by ensuring that zoning offers a mix of high- middle- and low-income housing, but it’s still seeing growing division in the city. Factors that tend to increase segregation are playing a greater role, such as market-driven housing development and rising immigration.

Private developers will not adopt the same approach as public players, who generally ensure that developments cater for rentals, right-of-occupancy homes and owner-occupied homes, which attract people with different income levels. At the same time, migrants tend to choose housing near other immigrants.

However the researchers note that the biggest factor affecting segregation is income differences. "Before segregation emerges, we need big differences between rich and poor," van Ham noted. The latest data show that among OECD countries, the difference between the rich and poor is the widest in 30 years.

Longer breadlines highlight rising poverty

Soup kitchens became a fixture in Finland during the deep recession of the 1990s. Tabloid Iltalehti speaks with Helsinki-based career charity worker Heikki Hursti who continues the family business of providing free foodstuff for people in need. According to Hursti, bread lines have been growing steadily over the past 10 years.

"Ten years ago 300 people were in need. A couple of years ago there were 2,600 and today there are around 3,000," Hursti said.

He pointed to one simple reason driving the situation: people simply don’t have enough money to live on. He also doesn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, given the eye-watering spending cuts the government plans to implement. Hursti said that he is particularly concerned about elderly residents in the capital area, given high rents and other living expenses, which eat into meagre incomes.

Poverty researcher Maria Ohisalo and Professor Juho Saari of the University of Eastern Finland looked at the phenomenon a few years ago and found that the majority of people who seek assistance at soup kitchens receive some form of social assistance. However they couldn’t stretch their incomes to cover high living expenses - a quarter of the 3,500 people they surveyed across the country were left with 100 euros in hand after paying monthly expenses, while about one-fifth ended empty-handed.

Many others didn’t receive any social assistance, but because of low wages and tight finances, needed help buying food.

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