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Yle fact-checks statements by politicians on immigration, climate change

Members of the public asked Yle to check statements made by political leaders in the run up to June's local elections.

Politikko Jussi Halla-Aho ja politikko Petteri Orpo.
Yle verifies statements made by Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho and National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo. Image: Mikko Ahmajärvi / Yle, Pekka Tynell / Yle

Yle has received dozens of requests from members of the public to fact-check statements made by political party leaders over recent weeks in the run up to the local elections scheduled for 13 June.

The statements related to issues such as immigration, climate change and the coronavirus crisis.

In this article, we have rated each of the statements as being either true, false or 'in-between' (meaning it was not completely true or false) and include an explanation for each rating.

Only statements that contained verifiable information were eligible for fact-checking. Other opinions expressed by politicians, for example predictions of the future, cannot be assessed.

Yle’s election compass, available in English, aims to help voters find candidates whose views most closely align with their own.

Orpo: Immigrant employment rate higher than native population

Statement: "The employment rate of those who come [to Finland] to work is higher than that of the native population," opposition National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo on Yle's Great Election Debate (Ylen Suuri vaalikeskustelu), 11 May 2021.

Rating: True.

Explanation: According to the Finnish Immigration Service Migri, an employee's residence permit requires an employment contract or a binding offer of a job in Finland.

As a result, the employment rate among immigrants in Finland is higher than that of the native population. Statistics Finland's latest information on the employment rate of Finnish citizens is from 2020, when the employment rate was 72.1 per cent. Orpo's statement is true.

The All Points North podcast interviewed party leaders in English during the spring. You can listen to Petteri Orpo's interview using the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

Article continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

Halla-aho: Immigrants quit jobs, live off social welfare

Statement: "The problem with these people is that they usually don’t even stay at work for very long, but throw themselves into the social security system for life. After a few, a couple, three years in the country, their employment rate will fall below the employment rate of the native population, even though they have come here specifically for work," opposition Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho on Yle's Great Election Debate, 11 May 2021.

Rating: False.

Explanation: According to the Centre of Expertise in Immigrant Integration at Finland's Ministry of Employment and the Economy, there is currently no data from which the rate of change in the employment rate of immigrant workers over time could be comprehensively reviewed.

However, by combining data from various surveys and statistics, it can be concluded that the employment rate of people entering the country to work is higher than that of the native population and will remain higher for at least ten years. Other register data shows that the employment and earnings levels of immigrants generally increase with the length of their time in the country.

At the same time, the use of social welfare benefits tends to decline. Halla-aho's claim is therefore false.

In his interview with All Points North, Halla-aho said he would "absolutely not" consider making English one of Helsinki's official languages despite the fact that English speakers constitute a major language group in the city.

Article continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

Marin: Climate change a factor in Covid crisis

Statement: "As for a pandemic like this, which we have been in the midst of: this is the result of climate change, biodiversity loss and that living space has been taken away from nature, among other things, so pandemics like this can impact people with a whole new force," said the Social Democratic Party chair, Prime Minister Sanna Marin at Ilta-Sanomat's municipal election debate, 18 May 2021.

Rating: In-between, neither completely true nor false.

Explanation: Professor of Virology Olli Vapalahti tells Yle that a direct link to climate change cannot be drawn in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, as the exact stage and onset of the pandemic are not precisely known.

However, Marin is correct that climate change is seen as one of the background factors behind the threat posed by new viruses. According to Vapalahti, climate change, the loss of biodiversity and nature's dwindling living space are factors that increase the transmission of new infectious diseases from the animal kingdom to humans.

For example, this can happen when areas of a jungle are cleared or when pigs are taken to areas where they come into direct contact with bats. With climate change, species are spreading to new areas and the loss of biodiversity can in turn mean a certain species acquires a dominant position, which can increase the risk of species migration and the emergence of new, coronavirus-like infectious diseases.

All Points North's interview with Prime Minister Sanna Marin is scheduled for next week.

Harkimo: Only one in three need social healthcare

Statement: "It must be remembered that one third of people go to occupational health care, another one third have health insurance so sote (the planned social healthcare reform) applies to about one third of people. If it is not possible for them [the government] to provide decent health care by adding more resources, without all this complication, then it is very strange," opposition Movement Now chair Harry Harkimo on Yle's Great Election Debate, 11 May 2021.

Rating: False.

Explanation: Harkimo's argument is not true as such. The percentages he cites are inaccurate and the argument completely ignores the fact that only a very small proportion of the population is completely excluded from specialist public health care. In the case of the most serious illnesses, these people are often also clients of public health care.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the sote reform will affect the entire population and the issue is not quite as simple as Harkimo suggests.

More than 43 percent of Finland's population is covered by public healthcare and in principle everyone living in the country has the right to the service. Occupational health care covers about 35 percent of people (1.91 million), but its scope also varies considerably.

More than 22 percent (1.2 million) of the population have health insurance. In addition to occupational health care, some also have private health insurance taken out by an employer for the benefit of their employees.

However, people covered by private health insurance and occupational health care also have access to and use a lot of public health services.

Harkimo told All Points North that he does not identify with another, more famous presenter of The Apprentice, former US President Donald Trump.

Article continues after audio.

Audio: Yle News

Ohisalo: Wind turbines can help reduce local tax rate

Statement: "In the future, by investing in renewable energy, for example, municipalities can in fact make up this tax burden, and if wind power is put into the municipalities properly - as I recall Pyhäjoki was mentioned - that the municipal tax rate could be zero in the future," Green Party chair and Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo said during Yle's Great Election Debate, 11 May 2021.

Rating: Cannot be determined.

Explanation: Ohisalo could be referring to an article in the business magazine Kauppalehti, which suggested that municipalities could reduce the municipal tax rate to zero due to the potential property tax revenue generated by wind turbines.

However, the calculations are related to the sote reform currently under consideration in Parliament, which will change the revenue and expenditure structure of municipalities. The state contribution system will also change, which may mean that wind turbine property tax revenues will not go to the municipalities.

Therefore, Ohisalo's statement cannot be verified because it relates to an uncertain future.

On the All Points North podcast, Ohisalo said she would be willing to consider changing Finland's law on discrimination to try and help people moving to Finland find work.

Audio: Yle News

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