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Wednesday's papers: Seasonal flu vs corona, a growing workforce and Finland sees a small miracle

A lethal seasonal flu, a surprise uptick in jobs and new baby data make headlines in Finland.

"Tule meille töihin" post-it lappu seinällä.
A sticky note encourages jobseekers to "come work for us." Image: Eleni Paspatis / Yle

With the coronavirus spreading across Europe, Helsingin Sanomat’s top story asks whether the novel virus really is more serious than the seasonal flu. HS pointed out that the annual flu kills up to 1,000 people in Finland each year.

While Jussi Sane from Finland’s health watchdog THL said it’s too early to draw any comparisons between the two viruses, he noted a link between smoking and the development of coronavirus complications.

"There’s no research linking smoking to an increased risk for developing the coronavirus, but if you consider upper respiratory infections in general, there's something there."

Health officials have pointed out that coronavirus symptoms such as cough and fever are somewhat indistinguishable from the seasonal flu, meaning a test is necessary to accurately diagnose patients.

"There’s no use in panicking. The end of the world isn’t coming even if the situation is serious," Sane said.

Finnish workforce expands

An employment upswing has taken economists by surprise, according to business magazine Talouselämä. Statistics Finland reports that 46,000 more residents were in jobs in January than during the same time last year.

"We don’t really know why employment has surged...employment rates have particularly improved among young people, which is very positive," Danske Bank economist Jukka Appelqvist told TE.

Finland's employment offices, known as TE centres, posted 146,400 vacancies in January. TE noted that the high number of open positions indicates that it is becoming difficult to recruit suitable workers.

"Unemployment has also grown which suggests that the size of the overall labour force is expanding," Appelqvist added.

Sanna Marin’s cabinet has set itself an ambitious 4.8 percent unemployment rate goal--a level significantly lower than the current 7.2 percent.

Bundles of joy

HS also writes of a tiny miracle happening in Finland — more babies are being born now compared to the same period last year. Fifteen more babies were born in January than 12 months previously, making January the second consecutive month of a birth uptick as last December also saw 19 more babies over December 2018.

After crunching the numbers, Statistics Finland optimistically tweeted, "the declining birthrate appears to have levelled off in recent months."

In 2019, Finland's birth rate dropped for the ninth consecutive year. Many politicians, policymakers, business leaders and others have been keen to point out that Finland needs to increase its population level or the country will see its social support system collapse in coming years.

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