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Thursday's papers: Rent relief for the rich, probing sick leave practices and a Finn shows up in Star Wars

Thursday's review looks at how the capital city Helsinki softens the blow of rents for high income tenants, examines data showing that employees return to work sooner if they're allowed to stay home sick for a week without a doctor's note, and Finalnd's star attraction in the latest installment of the bestselling Star Wars franchise.

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

Leading circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat reports on new research showing that the capital Helsinki "donates" roughly 40 million euros each year to high income earners in the form of low rents.

The paper cites a study by Essi Eerola of the Bank of Finland and Tuukka Saarimaa of VATT, the Institute for Economic Research, which found that nearly 5,000 wealthy families living in Helsinki save several thousands of euros annually by living in city rental homes.

According to HS, these families pay much lower rents than their neighbours living in flats owned by property investors. The difference is on average six euros per square metre, and even more for properties close to the city centre. In upscale areas such as Katajanokka and Arabianranta, the savings per family may run as high as 10,000 euros in a year.

The paper pointed out that the families in these cases are among the top 20 percent of the city’s earners and on average earn annual incomes of up to 40,000 euros after tax.

Altogether the tenants living in the city’s cheapest rental homes benefit from roughly 150 – 200 million euros annually. The lowest income earners account for roughly 34 percent of that sum, while more than 20 percent goes towards cheaper rents for high income households.

This is reflected in the size of the rental homes that high income households occupy – on average more than 60 square metres, the study noted. On the other hand, householders who don’t benefit from the rent relief tended to live in homes that were on average 10 square metres smaller.

More time home without a doctor's note = shorter sick leaves

Hot off the press in southwestern Finland, broadsheet Turun Sanomat leads with a report on data from the local government pensions organisation Keva, which finds a decrease in sick leave and its related costs when workers have expanded rights to stay at home without a doctor’s certificate.

"People return to work faster than from regular sick leave when they don’t have a doctor’s certificate to be away from work longer. This frees up health care resources to look after people with disabilities, so we can break the trend of problematic long sick leaves," said Keva medical chief Lisbeth Forsman-Grönholm.

The observations were based on data on sick leave absences that Keva gathered from 60 public organisations. It showed that the practice reduced sick absences by more than 10 percent.

Jyväskylä is one of those rare cities where employees are allowed to be away from work on sick leave for up to seven days without a doctor’s certificate. Most municipal employers allow their employees a maximum of three days away without a sick leave certificate.

"May The Force be with you"

Global fans of The Force turned out for the world premier of the long-running Star Wars franchise on Wednesday night. The occasion provided an extra thrill for Finnish aficionados who were aware that the role of the woolly Wookie warrior Chewbacca was partly played by a Finn, basketball player Joonas Suotamo.

Tabloid daily Iltalehti reports that in spite of his role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Suotamo was unable to attend the star-studded red carpet premier in Los Angeles because of technical problems that prevented his flight from leaving London’s Heathrow airport.

The 2.09-metre tall basketballer previously played in the United States with Penn State University and moved back to Finland in 2011 to join Espoo Basket Team. He took turns with original actor Peter Mayhew to play the part of the hirsute Chewie.

"When I watched the Star Wars movies as a child, I never believed I would be part of this saga," Suotamo enthused.

"I've always wanted to be an actor, but because of my height I never thought it was possible," he added.

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