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Thursday's papers: Income support row, manual labour wages and smuggling fiasco

Finland's press looks into claims that a supplement to income support payments will "flow" to immigrants and single men.

Aino-Kaisa Pekonen
Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen. Image: Yle

Helsingin Sanomat investigates claims made by the opposition Finns Party that the government’s proposal to provide an additional 75 euros per month to recipients of social assistance payments for the rest of this year will instead unfairly benefit immigrants and single men.

State benefits agency Kela pays the basic social assistance payment "to individuals and families whose income and assets do not cover their essential daily expenses".

HS writes that when Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen (Left) introduced the proposal to Parliament, she said the additional payment was intended to support the most vulnerable individuals and families "in a situation where restrictive measures due to the coronavirus pandemic have caused additional costs".

However, in a press release on Wednesday, the nationalist Finns Party criticised the proposal because "the increase in government income support will largely flow to immigrants living on social security", as well as men living alone.

"About 25 percent of the recipients of income support are immigrants and in the Helsinki metropolitan area even more than 40 per cent," Ville Tavio, chair of the Finns Party Parliamentary Group, told HS.

According to Kela, however, the share of non-Finnish citizens who received basic income support in March to July this year was 18 percent in the whole country, and 28 percent in the Greater Helsinki area.

Thus, HS writes, the share of immigrants receiving the income support payment is clearly higher than the share of immigrants in the total population, but this can be explained by the higher-than-average unemployment rate of immigrants.

Manual labour wages significantly below average income

Meanwhile business daily Taloussanomat looks at how the wages of manual workers in Finland -- which the paper defines as people doing physically demanding jobs that do not require higher education -- compare to the median private sector income of 3,350 euros per month.

The paper’s study of more than 230,000 manual workers -- which included security guards, bar staff and waste collectors -- found that the average monthly income was around 2,460 euros, including bonuses, in 2019.

Security guards, for example, were paid about 2,600 euros per month last year while waiters averaged about 2,330 euros per month. Kindergarten assistants, meanwhile, were paid less than 2,000 euros per month, on average, the paper reports.

Taloussanomat also compared incomes for 2019 with the previous year, and found that wages rose by about 1.9 percent, but added that this did not lead to a significant increase in consumer purchasing power because prices in Finland also went up, by an average of about one percent.

The €25 million "fiasco"

Tabloid Iltalehti reports on a drug smuggling “fiasco” as the trial began in Helsinki of five men accused of raiding a warehouse in search of a consignment of cocaine.

IL writes that police believe the cargo originated in Brazil but for some reason was not picked up by the smugglers as planned in the Dutch port of Rotterdam, instead making its way to the yard of a chemical warehouse in Espoo.

Police suspect the group of five defendants then launched a raid on the warehouse with the intention of reclaiming the consignment, attacking the driver of a trailer in the process, before leaving empty-handed as police arrived. They were later arrested at Helsinki's Olympia Terminal as they tried to flee Finland.

IL writes that the masked men carried out the raid in an "amateurish manner" which was laden with mistakes, including leaving plentiful evidence at the crime scene. The group was also "armed" with a toy gun which police believe was purchased from a store in Helsinki for about 30 euros.

Prosecutors in the case are demanding the defendants be given the heaviest possible punishment, 13 years in prison.

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