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Wednesday's papers: Activation model criticism, safe freeway and train delays

Criticism of a model to activate jobseekers, freeway saving lives and snowstorm causing train delays in Western Finland.

Kaatunutta puuta raivataan.
Image: Yle

An editorial in daily Aamulehti highlights the problems in government's so-called activation model designed to energise the unemployed to seek work. While the paper applauds the idea of encouraging people to work, the "current activation model kicks those who are already down", it claims.

The scheme, which came into effect at the start of 2018, obligates unemployed jobseekers to undertake at least 18 hours of paid work in a 65-day monitoring period, take part in job-related training or earn 241 euros as an entrepreneur. Otherwise they face a 4.65-percent cut in unemployment benefit payments.

Even though the government never stated publicly that the model was meant to save money by reducing unemployment benefits, that’s what has happened, Aamulehti writes. At the same time, the results of the model are not encouraging. Figures from the Social Insurance Institution Kela show that close to a half of all jobseekers saw their benefits cut by 4.65 percent for some period of time between April and November last year.

There are also indications that while the amount of unemployment benefits Kela pays has fallen, those affected by the cuts have increasingly applied for basic income support. The active model penalises older unemployed in particular, Aamulehti says. Over 50-year-olds have trouble finding work or training opportunities, because employers consider them too old.

As a result, for many older jobless persons the model represents an automatic cut to benefits that are small to begin with, the paper writes. What is more, meeting the conditions of the model is difficult in Northern Finland and sparsely populated areas in the countryside.

The good news is that the government has agreed to work with labour market organisations to improve the model and make it easier for unemployed folk to demonstrate their efforts, Aamulehti writes. The proposal is expected to be ready in February.

Safe highway

Daily Turun Sanomat writes that opening a new stretch of highway between Lohja and Muurla 10 years ago has saved dozens of lives. During its first decade, three people died and 37 were injured in traffic accidents on the 51-km stretch, which forms a part of the Helsinki-Turku highway, whereas three people on average lost their lives on the old road every year.

"The old road was – and continues to be – extremely dangerous," says Jaakko Klang from the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment. "In contrast, highway 1 could well be the safest road in Finland."

The number of serious accidents has fallen radically despite a constant increase in traffic between Lohja and Muurla, TS writes. About 11,000-13,000 vehicles traveled daily on the old road before 2009, and about 1,500-2,000 still do now. However, 14,000-16,000 vehicles travel on that section of the highway every day.

Accident statistics are not quite as rosy at the eastern end of the highway between Lohja and Espoo, TS reports, where fatal crashes have claimed five lives in the past decade. The 32-km stretch called Tarvontie is Finland’s first highway and opened in 1962.

There are many reasons for these figures, Klang said. "Tarvontie has many sharp turns, a lot of traffic, high speeds and short safety distances between cars."

In all, 14 people died and 428 were injured in traffic accidents on the Turku-Helsinki highway between 2009-2018, TS reports.

Train delays

In other traffic news, tabloid Iltalehti reports that trains are running late on Wednesday morning due to the stormy weather. Iltalehti writes that trees have fallen on the tracks and damaged the railroad's electricity lines between Laihia and Vaasa in western Finland. As a result, trains to Seinäjoki will be replaced by buses.

Meanwhile, heavy snowfall has hampered the operation of a rail switch on the track between Seinäjoki and Parkano, resulting in delays of at least 30 minutes in the direction of Tampere, Iltalehti reports.

On Wednesday morning, about a half of all inter-city trains were delayed.

On the other hand, commuter traffic is experiencing fewer problems, with trains between Helsinki and Riihimäki and Kirkkonummi running largely on time, Iltalehti said.

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