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Wednesday's papers: Service sector pay woe, fines changing, wood makes a comeback

Dailies this Wednesday cover varied topics, including a new study on low-wage sector payouts, the end of the traditional fixed fine for traffic violations and wood as a building material for flats returning after decades of neglect.

Apartment buildings made out of wood are coming back, to Helsinki at least. Picture from Jyväskylä. Image: Yle

Finland's papers are a mixed bag this morning. Tabloid Iltalehti features an article on the plight of service sector employees, as illuminated by a new study commissioned by Service Union United (PAM).

The crux of the IL story is that workers in low-wage service jobs receive some 30 million euros in social benefits and subsidies – which researcher Niina Tanner says could just as well be paid to the employees in the form of a higher salary.

If all part-time wage earners in retail sales were given a monthly pay rise of 50 euros, the article says, the overall net revenue of the retail sector would take a less than 10 percent dip.

Head economist Jaana Kurjenoja from the Finnish Commerce Federation says that raising pay would lead to hikes in cost and in prices, leaving domestic retailers defenceless against foreign chains. She adds that the retail sector's net profits are far smaller than mid-range earnings in the business sector.

An employee's childcare costs may go up or housing support may be cut, IL writes, if an employee's working hours go up.

"We are for lighter taxing of salaries and bringing down daycare payments," Kurjenoja says.

Fines fixed

Meanwhile, fellow daily Ilta-Sanomat has a spread explaining a coming change in Finland's fining system for traffic offenses.

So-called fixed fines, a.k.a. summary penalty fees, are pecuniary penalties of a fixed amount in euros which are less severe than fines and are used as punishment for certain violations. Now, IS writes, those may soon be replaced by traffic violation fines.

One of the effects of the law change – a 453-page government bill for which is making the preliminary parliamentary rounds – would be that jaywalking would no longer be a crime. Police would still be able to fine people walking across roads with red traffic lights 20 euros.

Another detail of the new proposal is that driving while using a mobile device would carry a 100-euro violation fine, while not wearing a seat belt gets you a 70-euro ticket, IS shows. Among the smallest new fines is the 40-euro sanction for moped drivers who rev it up a little too loudly in residential areas.

Wood construction returning to cities

Record amounts of wooden apartment buildings are to be built in the coming years in Finland, top daily Helsingin Sanomat reports. During the next two years twice as many wooden flats will be built than have been constructed in the last 20 years.

Not only that, but capital Helsinki is actually set to gain a whole block of wooden tenements, called – what else – "Wood City". The move comes at a time when Finnish builders have all but forgotten the secrets of wooden high-rise building.

"Finland has been lagging behind Western Europe in terms of wooden building," says Stora Enso project worker Sami Typpö. He is overseeing the delivery of wood materials in Jätkäsaari, a peninsular neighbourhood of Helsinki that is set to be the site of a brand new wooden apartment block.

Wood is an extremely common material in Finnish detached houses and villas. The boom-to-be in wooden construction is specifically about apartment buildings. Helsinki deputy mayor Anni Sinnemäki of the Greens says that wooden construction is sensible ecologically, it uses domestic lumber and has widespread appeal to people in general.

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