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Thursday's papers: School absenteeism, pro hockey and wildlife under threat

Several morning newspapers report on a survey showing that school absenteeism is a growing problem in Finland.

Kuvassa on koulun naulakko.
School absenteeism has been identified as a growing problem. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Finland's highest-circulation Swedish-language newspaper, Hufvudstadsbladet, is among many media outlets to carry news of a survey by the Finnish National Agency for Education showing that thousands of pupils often stay away from school, and that the problem is getting worse.

HBL writes that education officials are especially concerned about several thousand students whose school absenteeism is at such a high level that there is a risk that it will lead to serious problems later in life.

The survey found that at least 4,000 students in grades 7 to 9 are absent from school so often that it affects their learning. This is 2 to 3 percent of all students in these year groups.

There are high rates of absenteeism in every part of the country, with almost half of the students who regularly miss school doing so since starting in grade 7.

On the basis of assessments by teaching staff, the National Agency for Education says that the absenteeism problem is getting worse.

It goes on to point out that high absenteeism correlates with deteriorating learning outcomes, the tendency to drop out of school and difficulties later in life.

According to school staff, psychological problems are the primary cause of problematic absences. Other significant causes are illness, circumstances at home and social problems at school, such as a lack of friends and bullying, HBL writes.

Bleak prospects for hospitality sector

The Oulu-based daily Kaleva reports that the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa believes that if the situation does not change significantly, half of all the country's live entertainment service companies will be on the verge of bankruptcy within the next six months.

Overall, operators in the tourism and hospitality believe they are facing a bleak future. More than half of companies represented by the Finnish Hospitality Association say more layoffs are likely this autumn. One in six companies sees a threat of bankruptcy looming this coming winter.

For example, Kaleva quotes the association as saying that six out of ten convention centres and trade fairs estimate their loss of revenues right now at 70 percent year-on-year. More than half of hotels and spas estimate the loss at 50 percent.

Kaleva writes that MaRa is urging the government to reduce VAT on passenger transport, accommodation, sports and cultural services to 5 percent for two years. In addition, the group has called for restrictions on travel and gatherings to be lifted, an end to widespread teleworking and a transition to contact teaching in universities.

According to MaRa, the tourism sector in Lapland could be rescued by creating tourist corridors from abroad to Northern Finland. The government reportedly discussed related measures on Wednesday evening, according to Kaleva.

Uncertainty for pro hockey season

The Finnish Hockey League is scheduled to start in early October, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about how the season will play out, writes the business daily Kauppalehti.

Riku Kallioniemi. CEO of the Finnish Elite League (SM-liiga), the country's top professional ice hockey league told the paper that it is still not know how many fans will be allowed in the stands this autumn. According to Kallioniemi, this will depend both on the facilities at individual arenas and on the restrictions in force in October.

Based on the current restrictions, arenas can take in groups of up to of 500 people with their own entrances, services and toilets. In effect this means that no more than half of the normal audience capacity could be allowed into arenas, which at best would mean about 5,000 spectators.

Of the 15 teams in the Elite League, 12 were in the black for the 2018–2019 season. However, the financial situation of the clubs is now shaky following an interrupted spring series.

Kallioniemi called the situation "worrying", but also told Kauppalehti, "Finland as a society has already learned to cope well with the corona crisis. Now it is all depends on personal responsibility and action as to how the second period plays out".

Biodiversity suffering

The Helsinki tabloid Iltalehti reviewed a new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature WWF saying that globally, the number of wild vertebrate species has declined by 68 percent in the past 50 years.

The paper notes that Finland is mentioned in the report in a positive light in the context of cooperation between the countries, citing as an example protection of the European beaver which has led to its reappearance in the wild in Estonia, Finland and Sweden. It also points to successful action in Finland to protect the Saimaa ringed seal and the white-tailed eagle.

The report highlights meat production as a continuing threat to the environment. WWF Finland's General Secretary Liisa Rohweder told Iltalehti that in this respect the Finns need to take a broader view, noting that 40 percent of the land area used to feed Finns is outside the country and that 90 percent of environmental impact inside the country is related to food production.

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