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Wednesday's papers: More presidential power, planned labour protests, teen mortality, hazardous roads

Among the items in the morning newspapers are a poll showing Finns want the president to wield more power, planned union protests expand, high teen mortality in Finland, and warnings of hazardous driving conditions.

Auto lumisella tiellä.
Driving conditions are extremely hazardous in many areas today. Image: Aku Häyrynen / Lehtikuva

Taking a look at the results of a poll by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, the Oulu-based daily Kaleva reports that up to 61% of voters in Finland want the president to be granted more power to influence legislation.

EVA's head of research, Ilkka Haavisto told the paper that that the level of support for greater presidential powers was surprising in light of how much Parliament's role in governing the country has increased since the powers of the president were heavily dialed back around 30 years ago.

A majority of the some 2000 people surveyed for the study backed increased powers for the president to name key civil servants (55%), influence foreign policy (82%) and to dismiss Parliament and call early elections (60%).

Haavisto says that the conclusion that can be drawn is that a majority of citizens think that presidential powers have been reduced too far. "It's also a matter that citizens feel that the president could act as a sort of national referee," he added. "The president could blow the whistle when government formation reaches an impasse, when the cabinet is paralyzed by disagreements, or if the government brings legislation before Parliament that is poorly justified or badly prepared."

Labour protest expanding

The union confederation SAK, which represents a million workers, plans to stage a major protest against stricter conditions on employment benefits on the 2nd of February.

The Transport Workers' Union AKT and the main union for construction workers on Tuesday announced their members will also join in. The service sector union PAM said it will have a "strong presence" in the protests.

The tabloid Iltalehti writes today that the protests could bring the country to a near halt and lists some of its impacts. Union workers will be away from the job in a wide range of fields including, long-distance bus operations, waste management, travel agencies, ports, shipping and some passenger ferries.

Tens of thousands of construction workers intend to lay down their tools for 24 hours beginning at midnight on the 1st of the month.

In a statement to Iltalehti, the head of the service sector union PAM, Ann Selin, stressed that the protest will be a serious message to the government that it must withdraw its so-called so-called "active model" scheme. That plan could reduce jobseekers’ benefit payments unless they can prove that they are either doing temporary work, pursuing entrepreneurship or taking part in training.

High teen mortality

Turun Sanomat today carries a report that the mortality rate in Finland for 15-19 year-olds is nearly twice as high as in any other Nordic country.

Drawing on an article in the latest issue of the American journal Health Affairs, Turun Sanomat notes that while Finland ranks 4th worldwide in the lowest rates of infant mortality, it has the 15th lowest overall child mortality rate. This is attributed to more deaths of teenagers.

According to Professor Mika Gissler of Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), although underage drinking has fallen sharply over the past 40 years, it remains on cause of death in this age group.

Gissler also points to the higher rate of traffic fatalities than in the other Nordic countries. Accidental deaths, including road traffic fatalities involving young men are more than twice as high in Finland than anywhere else in the Nordic region.

Additionally, Finland has a higher suicide rate, with twice as many boys 15-19 taking their own lives than in any other country in the region. While the suicide rate for young women is lower than for men, it is also higher than in other Nordic countries.

Professor Gissler told the paper that one means to bring down mortality rates would be to reduce alcohol consumption among young men, but he also noted that new alcohol legislation has made it even more readily available.

Hazardous road conditions

Take your time if you’re driving today is Ilta-Sanomat's advice to readers.

Snow and freezing drizzle, as well as gusty winds have made driving extremely hazardous especially in southern and western parts of the country this morning.

According to Ilta-Sanomat, road conditions are turning hazardous in other parts of the country, as well.

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