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Wednesday’s papers: Pension problems, island emissions and metro timetable

The press on Wednesday includes stories on the problem of perverse incentives in the labour market, carbon emissions in Åland and some encouraging news from the people behind Helsinki’s metro extension.

Mies makaa lukee lehteä.
File photo. Image: Ritva Tarkki / Yle

Taloussanomat has a column on an eternal staple of Finnish politics: the level of benefits available to the unemployed. Or at least that’s the starting point.

It covers the case of ‘Maria the cleaner’, revealed by Ilta-Sanomat, who found that her take-home income rose when she claimed benefits as compared to what she earned from her job.

There were some oddities about the story, most obviously a 350-euro a month travel cost, but overall the story stood up despite some online criticism: it is possible that low-paid people get more money in social benefits than they do from working.

Talussanomat journalist Teemu Muhonen notes that the implications drawn from this by most people are either that benefits are too high or that salaries are too low. He says that’s to miss the point that the real issue here is pensions.

Maria paid just 10 percent of her salary in tax, but along with employer contributions her pension payments totalled a massive 28 percent. The cost of Finland’s generous pension system is the problem that policy-makers are referring to when they talk about the dangers of a low employment rate and the need to get more low-paid work into the system, and Muhonen patiently maps out the implications of that policy.

The cleaners earning 1,500 euros or less will in future be paying big contributions to fund the pensions of retired workers who made much smaller contributions during their working lives. The average male pension in Finland is 2,100 euros, and Muhonen asks whether the working-age population is really going to be happy to fork out large sums each month to maintain that system?

High emission Åland

Turun Sanomat carries an STT story about a comparison of carbon emissions across 177 regions of the European Union — and it’s not happy reading for Åland.

The autonomous archipelago off the south-west coast has per-capita emissions of 5.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, putting it at the top end of the spectrum.

The lowest emissions were found in the Canary Islands, where residents emitted an average of just one tonne per year. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology blamed high energy use, the cold Finnish climate, and big houses with relatively few occupants for Åland’s high placing.

Åland’s Environment Minister Carina Aaltonen told STT that there were clear explanations for the high emissions, but the regional government should still enact a clear plan for reducing carbon footprints.

Metro joy

Helsinki freesheet Helsingin Uutiset has some positive news on the capital’s metro expansion, which has been delayed by over a year.

The extension to Espoo has been delayed several times after it was originally slated to be completed in 2014.

It had been scheduled to open last August, but delayed at a very late stage as the work overran with contractors leaving red-faced municipal transport officials, and politicians, uninformed.

HU contacted the Länsimetro firm, which is managing the extended underground system, to ask when it might be passenger-ready, and got the reply that September remains the target. No further delays are on the horizon—at least not yet.

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