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Wednesday's papers: Population dip revisited, health care access, biggest shopping centre

Professionals respond to falling populations, social service minister bemoans lagging services and the largest mall in the Nordics opens.

Jalankulkijoita suojatiellä.
Finland's population is facing a near inevitable decline, statistics show. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Finland's falling and aging demographic has been a source of much clamour and hand-wringing recently. Politicians have even urged voters to get busy in the bedroom to boost the plummeting population and avoid problems 9in the sustainability of the public finances.

This Wednesday's Helsingin Sanomat addresses the severity of the problem and the need for new responses. The decrease projected by current statistics is historically steep, with Finland's total fertility rate expected to fall to a meagre 1.32 potential children per woman – but municipal managers in smaller towns are trying not to panic.

"When will we understand that the permanent rate of settlement in any given place is not a measure of prosperity?" asked Kuhmo city manager Tytti Määttä on Twitter. "Finland needs new solutions to how wellbeing and vitality can be developed without population growth."

Määttä has experience with regions where birth rates tend not to rise. With the trend soon extending to all of Finland, brow-furrowing discussions about making more babies should make way for seeking real solutions, she said in HS.

"Efforts to increase overall population fertility do not work."

Senior actuary Markus Rapo holds a similar position for environmental reasons, as the planet's resources are stretched ever further.

"It's worth asking whether continuous growth is even something worth aspiring to," Rapo said in HS.

Outrageous clinic queues

One of the sectors that would face deep trouble without responses to an ageing Finnish population base is national health care, which has been taking lots of hits in recent years. Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Krista Kiuru announced on Tuesday that each and every citizen should be guaranteed a doctor's appointment within seven days of asking for one.

Tampere daily Aamulehti reported on Wednesday that the challenge is great: in the city's municipal clinic at Hatanpää, patients waited for an appointment for a median of 42 days. The Tammela health centre reported average waiting periods of 11 days, while private Mehiläinen clinics in the city saw patients in just two days.

Kiuru said in HS that the crux of the problem is that the government has overlooked primary health care overwhelmingly in favour of specialised medicine. The paper wrote that since 2005, a total of 3,700 doctors have been employed in specialised health care, while basic health services have hired only about 300 doctors in the same period.

"The situation simply cannot continue," Kiuru said.

The government is dishing out some 70 million euros for municipalities to develop their health care systems. Head of the Pirkanmaa health sector consortium, Jaakko Herrala said that Tampere is planning a new "health care development centre" in the Kauppi area. The idea is to combine basic health care as well as teaching, research and development.

"The centre would be a place to innovate new operating models and create new occupations," Herrala said in AL.

Tripla centre a risky "clone"

The largest shopping centre in all the Nordic countries will open its doors in Helsinki on Thursday. Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat runs a background story on the massive Mall of Tripla, a complex including a 250-store shopping hub, apartment buildings, offices and the Pasila train station.

The station area, around the corner from the Yle news campus, has been the site of a previously attempted commercial centre, writes IS's Taloussanomat supplement. Some thirty years ago developers were unable to translate the station's 40,000-odd rail commuters into paying customers, and the mall went belly-up.

"It's an illusion to think that lots of traffic automatically means lots of customers," said researcher Tuomas Santasalo from consultancy firm WSP Finland. "And contemporary shopping malls don't hold as much glamour as they used to back in the day."

A lack of interest has plagued some of Helsinki's recent commercial mega-projects, such as the Redi centre. With 44 malls already in operation, Santasalo predicts that consumers are close to getting sick of the sheer volume.

"Shopping centres are clones of each other, they're identical inside."

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