May Day in Finland is traditionally a day for political speeches, particularly for parties on the left. This year was no different, and the SDP made a splash with leader Antti Rinne's promise of an extra hundred euros a month for low-income pensioners if his party is in government after next year's election.
Editorial writers were back at their desks on Wednesday and by Thursday several had written their critiques of the social democrat promise. Business daily Kauppalehti called the move 'irresponsible', noting that the sustainability of the current pension system is under threat from a low birth rate and a shrinking pool of working taxpayers.
Making that system more expensive would in all likelihood mean greater austerity from future governments. KL wonders why the SDP, with a rapidly ageing support base, isn't trying to attract younger voters rather than fishing for support among the elderly.
Helsingin Sanomat, meanwhile, noted wryly that the other parties are already counting the cost of Rinne's promise--and that the SDP's preferred green-left-SDP coalition does not, on current polling figures, command a majority. Finnish political tradition has it that at least two of the three largest parties end up in government, but it is possible that the SDP could be left out again.
Baby box controversy
Ilta-Sanomat covers a controversy in the British press over Finland's famous baby box. The Scottish government, enamoured as it is of all things Nordic, has introduced a package similar to that delivered to all Finnish mothers-to-be. One quality of the Finnish box is that it can serve as a cot for the newborn, and indeed comes with a foam mattress for that purpose.
The Scottish government and its Chief Medical Officer, Carole Calderwood, say that the box is a safe sleeping spot for newborns and indeed has been awarded British Safety standard accreditation for crib use. The Guardian reports, however, that it's seen a memo from one British expert on cot death who says he's not convinced that's a good idea.
“They shouldn’t be advocating infants sleep in these boxes unless there isn’t anything else available,” Peter Blair is reported to have said.
The British Safety Institution has also cast doubt on whether the boxes have the claimed accreditation, saying that the equivalent accreditation is only now being developed. The Guardian said it had seen the certificate granted by a private consultancy for the baby box, under the EN 1130 European furniture regulation.
That is for furniture and not applicable to cardboard boxes, according to the institute, but the certificate said it complied as it had no small parts and was strong enough, and that its mattress met the standards for flammability and construction. The cardboard material in the box was not tested, however “at the request of the client”.
Blair says he is hoping the Scottish government changes the advice supplied with the maternity package.
Bears on the loose
Tampere paper Aamulehti reports that bear numbers in Finland are on the up, with a doubling to a total of around 2,000 recorded in the last fifteen years. Some 15-25 of them are in the Pirkanmaa region. One bear was hit by a bus in Orivesi on Wednesday, prompting the paper to offer some tips on what to do if you encounter a bear in the woods.
Respect the bear, is the first bit of AL advice, as it is a 'wild animal'. If you know there's a bear in the area, leave. It pays to let bears know a human is around, as European bears tend not to attack people, so make a little noise as you're walking through the peaceful woods.
If you surprise a bear, you should back away carefully without looking it in the eye. If it attacks, play dead.
Above all, don't worry: bears have only ever killed one person in Finland, according to Aamulehti. In 1998 a runner in Ruokolahti surprised a bear who didn't hear his approach as the wind was blowing the other way and the ground was soft and soundless. That bear was with a cub--the most dangerous time for a surprise encounter with a human.