Categories
Economy finland Investing

Finland Economy: Where is it going over the next two years?

Both Finland’s Central Bank and Finance Ministry have recently released updated forecasts for the next two years. The news isn’t great. In case you don’t understand subtlety, the Central Bank’s headlined their press release: Finland’s economic boom is over. A quote:

Finland’s economic boom is over and growth is temporarily losing momentum amid weaker global economic activity.

Will Finland’s economy crash? No. Even if finding a job in Finland will be more difficult than usual, these regular periods of slower growth and greater pressure on government finances tend to foster innovation and creativity. Instead of running to the hills maybe it’s time to look for an affordable investment opportunity? Of course, that’s if you can keep the cash coming in to pay your rent and buy food…

We’ll get into the details below. First, a little history on Finland’s economy.

Poor to rich

For most of the 1900s, Finland was a relatively poor country. Finland declared its independence in 1917. The following year, 1918, Finland had its own civil war. After that, Finland was a pretty stable, yet poor country until the Soviet Union attacked Finland in 1939. Finland fought two wars against the Soviet Union, the Winter War and the Continuation War. In 1945, after Finland had lost some of its Eastern parts to Soviet Union, the Continuation War ended.

Part of the peace treaty deal between Finland and the Soviet Union was that Finland had to pay war reparations to the Soviet Union. Finland managed to pay its reparations to Soviet Union on time which helped the development of various industries in Finland. Since the WW2, the economy of Finland has been growing quite steadily. According to the following statistic graph (from Tilastokeskus- Statistics Finland), the gross domestic product (GDP) of Finland has been growing steadily for the past decades.

However, there has been two major recessions during the last 50 years; the first one happened in the early 1990s and the second recession occurred after the Great Recession in 2008. Even though the Great Recession started in the United States, Finland, among other countries, suffered badly because of it.

Finland’s economy 2020 – 2022: Growth will slow

For the last 10 years, Finland has suffered economic challenges. After the Great Depression, a European Debt Crisis followed. It peaked between the years 2010 and 2012. Both of these crises affected Finland. Since 2009, Finland has had four different years when its gross domestic product (GDP) has declined: 2009 and 2012-2014. The highest growth in GDP occurred in 2016 (2.6%) and 2017 (3.1%).

However, the party doesn’t seem to last very long in Finland. The Bank of Finland forecast for Finnish GDP growth is less than 1% next year:

  • 1.3% – 2019
  • 0.9% – 2020
  • 1.1% – 2021
  • 1.3% – 2022

The Finance Ministry has a slightly different forecast, but basically the numbers show a consensus.

  • 1.6% – 2019
  • 1% -2020
  • 1.1% 2021
  • 1.2% 2022

It is always hard to predict the future, especially when there are so many uncertainties and factors that determine the global economy trend. As a small fish in the sea, Finland’s economy is prone to various global economic threats and risks. Finns have always relied on their export sectors which is also the reason why the Finnish economy goes hand in hand, up or down, with the global economy.

So want to know how the Finnish economy is going to do? Look at the global economic outlook.

Aging population & adventurous young professionals: Challenging mix

Finland will be facing many challenges in the future. One of the biggest challenge for Finland’s economy is the fact that our population is aging fast. After the WW2 in 1945-1955, there was a baby boom in Finland (and across Europe) and many children were born in that time period. In Finland, we call these people “the great generations” (baby boomers). These people are already retired or just retiring now. That means that there are lots of older people who need support and care.

Sunset on the Finnish economy for now?

While Finland is aging fast, the total fertility rate (TFR) per average woman reached a record low numbers in 2018 (1,41). It is hard to figure out all of the reasons why the average fertility rate per woman has declined in Finland during the past 10 years, but it will sure has its effects. As if it was not enough, more and more talented young professionals are moving abroad from Finland. There are many reasons for that, such as wanting to experience different cultures or pay less taxes. Luckily, professionals from other countries also come to Finland to work.

In order to keep Finland’s economy and welfare state strong and stable, we definitely need more workers here in Finland. There is great talent shortage especially in the tech and IT field, but we need workers in all kind of field (such as elderly care). There are just not enough young Finns anymore which is why we have to rely on foreign labor.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

Sign up for a free weekly email of sulonorth’s latest posts

Categories
finland

How to move to Finland

sulonorth is moving across the pond in January 2020. No, I don’t mean we’re moving to the United States. We’re moving to Lauttasaari, a beautiful wooded neighbourhood of Helsinki.

We aren’t the only ones moving in Finland.

In 2018, Finland had a deficit when it came to Finns moving abroad compared to those moving in.

Though the country’s overall population grew as foreigners immigrated, 3,578 more Finnish citizens moved abroad than moved in, according to Statistics Finland.

Is there so much happiness here, that Finns feel the need to escape?

Why are Finnish citizens moving?

According to the report Decoding Global Talent 2018 by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 60-70% of Finnish respondents would be willing to move outside of Finland for work or already were abroad. Swedish citizens gave similar responses.

The reasons for moving are more multi-faceted than before. Finns used to move abroad mainly for economic reasons. Today, the search for adventure, learning new languages, and experiencing other cultures are among the many reasons for moving. International travel is relatively easy for anyone with a Finnish passport.

The most popular destinations for Finns to move to are the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, and Sweden. Yes, Sweden. Many Finns can also speak Swedish fluently. Sweden, for them, is a very easy destination. Finns also tend to speak English relatively well, which partly explains why the United Kingdom and United States are among the top destinations. According to YLE, Swedish- speaking Finns are more eager to move abroad than Finnish-speaking Finns.

Finland’s population shortage

The problem for Finland is that most people who want to move out are educated young people – exactly the citizens Finland needs, given its aging population. Even as educated people move abroad, more and more educated professionals are retiring. Not enough children are being born to replace the retiring or globetrotting talent force and the tax money and talent that they represented.

How to stop the ‘exodus’?

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and Business Finland have been concerned enough about the lack of educated people to release -as part of the Talent Boost programme of the Government of Finland- a handbook entitled Cookbook Finland.

“Since sufficient skilled labour is not available in Finland to cover the demand, international talent is a needed solution. Make no mistake: companies need greater numbers of talented workers than Finland has to offer,” the handbook says.

Especially of concern are fields such as software and computer technology, which are lacking thousands of skilled workers.

Part of Finland’s problem with attracting skilled labour is the lack of good marketing. As a small country, it is not easy to compete with big fishes such as Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Finland’s international branding mainly focuses on self-deprecating humor, saunas, and nature. All of this is great, but casts Finland more as a cute holiday destination than a country to live and innovate in. Can Finland better market its international companies and make them more attractive to foreign workers with the needed skills?

Another issue is that even though Finland’s labour market has taken huge leaps in terms of internationality, it is still fairly old-fashioned when it comes to language requirements. Many big, Finnish companies with global operations still expect workers in Finland to speak Finnish, even if the job itself doesn’t require it.

Of course, the dark and cold winters don’t help either.

Solving the talent shortage

Better integration services would be beneficial for Finland and may help keep the already acquired talent in the country longer. For example, many letters from the Finnish Tax Office arrive only in Finnish or Swedish. This is difficult to navigate with limited local language skills.

The system and expectations regarding speaking Finnish are slowly changing though. More English language resources are available for those of you thinking about a move to Finland.

Networking is becoming easier with several expat groups and free co-working hubs such as Helsinki Think Company. In a future post, we will give more tips on landing your dream job in Helsinki. For now, our key tip is: network, network, network. Spend far more time networking than filling out applications on online job portals. Stop reading and go network!

  • Estimated number of jobs not filled due to the talent shortage in 2018: 60, 000
  • Finland needs approximately 34,000 immigrants per year to meet the labour shortage
  • Finland needs 53,000 tech experts by 2021 and over 10,000 new software developers in the next four years

Source

Why move back to Finland?

I was among the Finns that returned home during 2018. Why did I do it? I’ve lived in Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. What made Finland great again?

After three years in London and Oxford I was ready for a dramatic change of pace. Also, I wanted to be closer to family after 10 years abroad.

Did the Finnish social system place a role in my decision to return?

Yes. The security that the Finnish state offers is reassuring in this seemingly ever more volatile world. My family does well enough that we don’t normally need social benefits. Still, knowing that a sudden illness or lack of work won’t leave us destitute is comforting. Since we have small children, the affordable schooling and heavily subsidized healthcare are hugely helpful.

However, the key factor in the decision to return was, ironically, the sunnier climate. The summer of 2018 was incredibly sunny and warm in Finland. Visiting on holiday, I spent hours outside and noticed how the city had become more international and seemingly more colorful and happier since I left all those years ago. The business start-up scene was flourishing and the warmth suggested Finland was changing for the better.

Will I move abroad again when my children are older and have immune systems built up by a few years of exposure to nursery germs?

I don’t know. Maybe I will again become one of those Finns moving out of the country, fueling the deficit.

For now, Finland is home and it’s time to innovate.

Alina Lehtinen-Vela is sulonorth’s commander-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter: @alinalehtinen

Sign up to receive sulonorth’s free weekly newsletter

Categories
finland

Independence Day in Finland 2019, Will a Prime Minster Attend the Presidential Party?

Finland’s Independence Day (itsenäisyyspäivä) is on Friday – December 6. It’ll be one of my first Finnish Independence Days in Finland for over a decade. In recent years, I’ve celebrated at Finnish consulates and embassies in places like Istanbul and Abu Dhabi. Now back from living abroad, I admit Independence Day feels especially good. Finland has come far in its 102 years as an independent country.

When did Finland become Independent?

Finland became independent on December 6, 1917 in what could only be described as an anticlimactic political saga full of bureaucratic hurdles. It was a result of good timing and strategic planning by the political elite in Finland, such as Prime Minister Pehr Evind Svinhufvud and Finnish Minister–Secretary of State Carl Enckell. They saw an opportunity when the Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian government in November 1917. Finland had been part of Russia since 1809. Previously, it had been part of Sweden.  

The Finnish senate decided to use the chaos in Russia to their advantage and declared Finland as an independent country. The Finnish government approved the declaration on December 6, 1917. Afterwards, the Chief General Manager of the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki (KOP) bank Juho Kusti Paasikivi travelled to Sweden, Denmark and Norway to request the countries to accept the declaration. He was unsuccessful. The other Nordic countries were unwilling to recognize Finland as an independent nation until Finland had discussed the matter with Russia directly. 

Finland sent a delegation to Russia and Lenin accepted the request for independence. However, the verbal agreement was not followed by action. Finland needed to do some additional convincing by writing letters and sending another delegation to St. Petersburg in late December 1917. This delegation consisted of Enckell and Helsinki University Professor of International Law K. G. Idman. They met with Lenin on December 28 and he requested the Finnish government write yet (you guessed it!) another official letter that would be responded to immediately.

Svinhufvud, Enckell and Idman travelled back to St Petersburg with the new official letters requesting independence on December 30. More bureaucratic issues arose while they handed over the letters: the Secretary-General of the Russian Council of People’s Commissars complained that the letter given to them had been addressed to the Russian government and not to Council of People’s Commissars directly. Therefore, they couldn’t open it. Despite a request by Enckell to just change the address, the Finnish delegates were requested to write a whole new letter with the correct address. 

With yet another new letter and after some more waiting, the Finnish delegation got what they came to Russia for: a letter signed by the Russian Council of People’s Commissars accepting Finland’s request for independence. The Official confirmation for Finland’s independence came on January 4, 1918.

How is Independence Day celebrated in Finland?

Finland’s independence is a quiet celebration unless you get invited to the presidential palace, which organises an exclusive party for the Finnish elite. Good luck with that! Many people stay at home and make Finnish food like karjalanpaisti, light up white and blue candles and watch on TV as the presidential palace celebrates. Some Finns may go out to celebrate dressed in their finest clothing.

Needless to say, the celebrations are usually pretty formal if you go out, and pretty casual if you are at home. Pick your poison.

The Independence Day party at the presidential palace is controversial since it is financed by taxpayers and invitations are mainly sent to those who are rich and powerful. This year 1,700 people have been invited. Usually, the budget for the celebration is between EUR200,000 – 300,000.  

Why is Finland’s independence important?

Many Finns think independence shouldn’t be taken for granted. The older generation still remember the times when Finland’s independence felt like it was under a threat from Russia. Even if Finland initially gained independence without bloodshed, there was plenty of blood spilt later on during the Winter War and Continuation War. Finland lost a lot of its territory-such as Karelia- to Russia as a result of the war. 

Even though losing Karelia was a very bitter pill to swallow, the country managed to keep its independence. Finns learned to appreciate the value of being a sovereign nation from looking to other countries that were less unfortunate at the time, such as the Baltic nations.

Today, Russia is Finland’s Frenemy. You probably know that Finland’s Prime Minister was forced to resign earlier this week. He’s currently a caretaker PM. Many are wondering if he’ll dare show up at the presidential palace independence day party. We shall see.

Sign up to receive sulonorth’s free weekly newsletter

Categories
finland Politics

Finland’s Prime Minister Resigns…Rinne Home for Christmas

UPDATE 3 December 2200 HELSINKI: As expected, Antti Rinne has resigned as Finland’s Prime Minister. He’ll stay on to lead a caretaker government until a new PM is agreed, or in the unlikely event a snap election is called. See below for who we’re betting will be Finland’s next Prime Minister.

The Finnish Government is in deep trouble. It is very likely that Prime Minister Antti Rinne will be ‘home for Christmas,’ or perhaps we should say ‘by Christmas’. Rinne is currently under heavy scrutiny due to allegedly making false statements regarding the recent postal strike

In the early evening on December 2, the Centre Party (Finnish: Keskusta) expressed a lack of confidence and distrust in Rinne, who is a member of the Social Social Democratic Party (Finnish: Suomen sosialidemokraattinen puolue). The Centre and SDP are the main parties in the current coalition government. Other parties have previously expressed concerns over the PM’s behaviour also. 

However, the Centre Party is likely to proceed carefully as they don’t actually want another election, in which they may perform poorly. Instead, they are pushing the SDP to force Rinne out.

Background: Posti Strike controversy

The whole situation started when it was discovered that Rinne and the now ex-Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering, Sirpa Paatero knew more than they had claimed about state-owned postal company Posti’s plans to cut pay for 700 workers. 

Both Paatero and Rinne claimed that they had no knowledge of Posti’s plans for pay cuts but the Postal Union Leader (PAU) Heidi Nieminen and Posti board member Markku Pohjola disputed those claims. 

“Posti informed the minister of our outsourcing plans during the preparation stage,” Pohjola was quoted as saying, according to Yle.

Helsingin Sanomat reported that Paatero received Posti’s plans to move 700 parcel sorters and 8,100 postal delivery workers to a different, cheaper employment contract on June 7, 2019. The Posti’s board members decided to put the plan into action after returning from a lavish trip to San Francisco in mid-August. Posti chiefs discussed the decision – which would decrease the salaries and benefits of 700 postal workers dramatically – with Paatero on August 21. She did not express any opposition to the plans, according to reports. 

A Posti delivery cart on the streets of Helsinki.

Too little, too late 

On September 3, Paatero announced a timeout regarding the employment contract transfer. This was too late, however, since 700 parcel sorters had already been moved under the new contract on September 1. 

On Nov 29, when Paatero announced her resignation, Rinne threw her under the bus claiming that she had not followed his orders. According to Rinne, Paatero should have stated her objections to changing the terms of employment for the Posti workers.

Rinne appears to be using Paatero as a scapegoat and as a last attempt to save his political skin. This will be unlikely to work. 

Push to shove?

If the Centre Party withdraws support from Rinne, the government will likely fall, should the SDP continues to support him. This would be too large of a risk for the SDP. The party has been losing support steadily since coming to power in Parliamentary elections in April this year. It is likely they will force Rinne out to save the government, hence keeping their position intact.

The SDP Party members held a party congress on the evening of December 2 at their main party office in Hakaniemi district’s iconic Ympyrätalo in Helsinki. They discussed Rinne’s situation and decided not to vote for his resignation at this time.  

Rinne made a very brief public appearance and commented on the situation, critising the Centre Party’s for being unclear with their demands. 

“If my way of communicating has been said to be unclear, I have to say that the Centre Party’s way of communicating is even more unclear, ” Rinne said.

“At the moment it is hard to know what they (the Centre Party) want in this situation. That is why tomorrow, for my due process, I want a Yes or No answer from them regarding if they want to continue working with me.”

Today (December 3) Rinne will be facing an interpellation organised by three opposition parties the Coalition Party (Finnish: Kokoomus), the Christian Democrats (Finnish: Kristillisdemokraatit) and the Movement Now (Finnish: Liike Nyt). That is, unless he has resigned before this happens. 

Vice President of the Social Democratic Party Sanna Marin seems to be the most likely choice to step into Rinne’s shoes following his nearly certain resignation.

Subscribe to have sulonorth’s articles sent to you once per week – no spam!

Categories
finland

Personal finance tips and tricks for Finnish university students

Overall Finland is a good country for students. We get a free education (even university is free) in one of the best school systems of the world and some really nice social benefits as a student, such as financial aid, housing allowance and a student loan that we don’t even have to pay fully. 

However, at the same time Finland is one of the most expensive countries in the world which means that as a student with limited income, you have to play your (financial) cards wisely. 

How to obtain financial advantage while studying at university? 

Usually, when people think about studying at university, they think about all that freedom enjoyed by young people, but also how expensive it is. In Finland, studying in university or in polytechnic (university of applied sciences) is generally free, but still, most people end up taking student loans and/or rely on their parents for financial aid. Social benefits for students are simply not enough for most students in Finland. 

However, students can learn valuable financial skills for the future during their university years. There are many ways how students can obtain a financial advantage while studying. I have personally been a Finnish university student. So I know from my own (and friends’) experiences some tips & tricks for how you can make the most of your studies financially.

Tip 1: Take student loan

If you are going to graduate from a Finnish university or from a Polytechnic on time (or even 0.5-1 year late), you should definitely take advantage of the Finnish student loan system. This is a no-brainer because of the student loan compensation. The student loan is a government-guaranteed loan for which you can get a maximum of €650 per month. However, I would advise to not take more than €18,000 (the maximum amount which is covered by the compensation) of student debt (unless you use it as an investment loan). 

The student loan compensation means that Kela (Finnish social service agency) pays back part of your student loan if you graduate from university in 6 years and from Polytechnic in 3.5 years. The maximum amount of compensation is €6,200 (- interest which is less than 0.5% yearly). To be able to claim €6,200 (- interests) of compensation, you need to take no more than €18,000 of student loan and graduate on time. 

Tip 2: Learn budgeting and track your expenses – and buy your groceries from big supermarkets or from Lidl

Do you know how much you spend every month? Probably not. Learn how to make yourself a monthly budget and track your spending so you know if you hit your targets or not. Here are some great tips for budgeting. There are many ways to track your expenses. You can your online bank statements, wallet apps or simply Excel. If you’re as obnoxious meticulous as some people at sulonorth, use YNAB

Food is expensive in Finland, and it is especially expensive in small, urban grocery stores. Bigger supermarkets like Prisma or the German grocery store Lidl are the best options. The more often you got to a grocery (or any other) store, the more stuff you buy on impulse. That is why it’s good to have a list and go to a grocery store only once per week if you can 🙂

Tip 3: Find a cheap accommodation

Your rent is probably the biggest monthly single expense you will have during your studies. The cost of living is rising in big cities in Finland. Luckily, every city with a university or a polytechnic has a student housing foundation. However, it might be hard to get a studio apartment in your freshman year through a student housing foundation. Dorm rooms are easier to get and they are very cost-friendly. On top of that, you get to meet new and interesting people. Outside of student houses, there are still many options for housing.

As a student in Finland, you are also entitled to get a general housing allowance that covers some of the housing costs depending on where you live and do you live alone. Note: if you move in with someone (e.g. your partner, friend), you are seen as one household (unless you have separate rental agreements, like in student dorms), thus you only get one housing allowance per household. 

Tip 4: Find yourself a part-time work or work full-time during summers

In Finland, studying at University or at Polytechnic is nearly free which means that you have plenty of free time. Of course it depends on your field of study and major, but generally, you don’t have many mandatory lectures and classes during the week. However, there are quite a lot of independent work you have on your own. 

So, you have plenty of time to work part-time if you want during your studies. If you don’t want to work during academic months, I would suggest you to at least work during the summer. But, be careful that you don’t earn too much!  If you receive a (and who wouldn’t!?) study grant (a basic financial aid for students), you have certain earning limits every year, depending on the amount of study grant you will receive during the year. For example, if you study for 9 months and receive study grant from these 9 months, your yearly earning limit is €12,498 in 2020. 

Tip 5: Think twice before buying anything new – and be careful with subscription services

As a student, you don’t have extra money that could be wasted on stupid things you don’t even need. Still, many of us fall into the trap of random shopping too often. Whenever you think about something that you would like to buy, you should ask yourself whether you really need the item that you think you need. Don’t believe commercials because only you know what you really need. 

Also, borrowing is a good way to avoid spending money on items you might only need on occasion. For example, if you plan to go play tennis a couple of times for fun, rather than buying a racket you could ask around to see if your friends can lent you one.

Other good way to avoid buying stuff are libraries. On top of books many libraries also lent out summer sporting equipment. So do check them out! There also many cheap second-hand markets in Helsinki that sell fashionable, quality clothing for a very reasonable price. 

Subscription services like Netflix and Spotify are great services, but these kind of services can insidiously increase your expenses before you even notice. 

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

Sign up for a free weekly email of sulonorth’s latest posts

Categories
finland

Helsinki’s Christmas street opens with reindeer, Santa police, & Saara Aalto

  • Opening of the Christmas St in Helsinki
  • Christmas lights in Helsinki
  • Horses are ready for Christmas
  • Women attending Christmas event in Helsinki
  • Crowd listening to Saara Aalto
  • Even dogs were dressed for Christmas

On Sunday, November 24, 2019 sulonorth was there when the Helsinki Christmas St – Aleksanterinkatu – officially opened. This is the 71st time the merry event -which included musical performances and a parade- has been held.

Christmas lights were lit and glögi heated up. Just in time too, since now there are less than seven hours of sunlight per day. Temperatures have dropped to below zero again. If you need extra help coping with the lack of sunlight, make sure you check out our tips for surviving the Nordic winter.

Maybe the weather isn’t pleasant, but there’s nothing to do except dream of a white Christmas here in Finland’s capital. Talking about White Christmas, famed Finnish singer Saara Aalto (yes, known as the runner-up in The X Factor UK 2016) performed Christmas favourites.

Even dogs and police horses were dressed for the merry occasion.

Sign up for a free weekly email of sulonorth’s latest posts

Categories
finland

Finnish Posti (postal workers) strike reflects Finnish values better than anything

The Posti strike is still on. Finnish postal workers have been on strike since Monday, 11 November. Two weeks is a long time for a strike that has some serious effects for mail letter and package deliveries: package deliveries are late for days while delays in mail letter can be much longer. And all that in the midst of high-season, just before Christmas. 

As if the Posti workers’ strike was not enough, other workers’ unions are organizing sympathy strikes to support Posti workers. For example, the Transport Workers’ Union AKT announced a sympathy strike that would stop public transport in Helsinki region for 24 hours if the Posti strike continues without resolution. Other workers’ unions that are supporting the Posti strike with concrete actions are The Finnish Aviation Union, Service Union United, The Finnish Food Workers’ Union and Finnish Seafarers’ Union

Monday, 25 November could see major transport disruptions throughout Helsinki if Posti workers do not have their demands met. A good day to work at home? How many people can really do that?

Finland is the safest country in the world. It’s notable though that the potential action on Monday is being reported by services that warn international business travelers of delays and disruptions. Usually, Helsinki only appears on these services when Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin visits the city.

The Posti office in central Helsinki.

What is the problem? 

Finnish postal workers (PAU union) are fighting against Posti, the government-owned postal monopoly, over a new deal covering wages, terms and conditions in the sector. According to PAU union’s chairman, Heidi Nieminen:

“Posti is seeking such drastic weakening of terms and conditions that there is not really any other option but to answer with industrial action and try to get a reasonable contract on time”.

PAU union asked other unions from blue-collar confederations to support the Posti strike, and that is what threatens to disrupt daily life in Helsinki on 25 November as the strike continues for the second week in a row without an agreement.

Spending and inequality within Posti 

The Posti strike has gathered an increasing amount of sympathy among the Finnish public following media coverage of the huge wage gaps between the blue-collar postal workers and the former head of Posti, Heikki Malinen.

Malinen banked nearly one million euros in 2018. His 2018 salary included a staggering €376,841 bonus which alone is equivalent to an annual average salary of 16 postmen

Malinen resigned at the beginning of October amid rising controversy over Posti’s excessive spending on senior figures, such as himself. For example, the leaders of Posti have enjoyed expensive memberships at Sarfvik Golf Club in Kirkkonummi, west of Helsinki. The membership was proposed by Malinen in 2015 and it cost €30,000 – more than a year’s salary for the average postal worker.

In mid-August, 15 Posti board members and leadership team members travelled to California for a nine-day all-inclusive luxury trip. Posti has refused to specify the exact cost of the trip but it is estimated to be over €100,000.

Only two weeks after this trip, details of the new deal lowering employment benefits and wages were released. According to Helsingin Sanomat, PAU union has estimated that the new proposed employment contract would mean that postal workers earning around €24,000 annually are facing a 30-50% pay decreases.

Amid increasing backlash, Malinen agreed to forgo two months pay but most people felt that this was adding insult to injury considering his high salary and benefits. Following his departure from Posti, Mallinen will still gain four month’s salary.

A Posti truck on the streets of Helsinki.

The strike represents Finnish values

In a country of low income inequality, it is not a big surprise that this kind of industrial action has taken place. In Finland, rich people don’t boast with their money because that is simply against our moral values. In Finland, people get jealous very easily if someone happens to have little bit more money. 

Finnish journalists celebrate a  “National Jealousy Day” with sensational headlines once a year when the government publishes the taxable income of all its citizens. Searching for rich people’s income has been made super easy with specific “tax search engines” that are available in in every major newspaper’s website. Thank god, the tax search engine shows only the information of those who earned more than 100,000 Euros last year. 

At the same time, Finns like to show support for those who don’t have that much. Surprisingly many Finns are happy to pay high taxes in order to get nearly free education, healthcare, low-crime rates and to be just overall happy people.

For most of the 1800s and 1900s, Finland was just a tiny Northern country that nobody knew of. Of course, we had our wars and Olympics and some sports achievements. Nowadays, Finland is a relatively “rich” country, which is great, but at the same time, our moral values have not changed in the past decades. That is why most Finns have some sympathy towards these postal workers who fight for themselves in order to get adequate rights and rewards.

A Posti worker wearing their recognisable orange jackets in central Helsinki.

An end to paper mail?

Ending deliveries of paper mail be a tempting option when confronted with the Posti workers’ strike. There’s been some public discussion of this recently. Finland is a very digital country with medical, tax, and government-related documents also available online, secured by bank codes. Paper mail is still widely used, however, with accessing online documents a slow and cumbersome process, especially for the elderly, the less tech savvy, and those without strong internet connections.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

Sign up for a free weekly email of sulonorth’s latest posts

Categories
finland

Succeed with your quest to find an affordable rental in Helsinki

An affordable rental in Helsinki? It sounds like an oxymoron to anyone who is familiar with the expensive nature of apartments and houses in this Nordic capital. Does it exist?

The bad news is that rents keep rising in Helsinki. Currently, the average monthly rent in Helsinki is €22.1 per m² meaning that a 30m² studio apartment costs on average €663 per month. If you want to live in a trendy area of the city centre you can end up paying more than €1,000 for a studio when renting through the private market.

Below are recent search results on the popular rental listing site Vuokraovi for studio apartments in Kamppi (city centre):

As you can see, Helsinki is an expensive city. There’s a huge demand for property, and there’s not enough of it.

Here are some options to consider if you want to live in Finland’s capital.

HEKA

Helsinki Council Housing (HEKA) offers the least expensive per square meter price in comparison to any other rental provider. For an apartment in the central Kamppi area you’ll pay around €12.62 per m² per month, less than half the price than that of the private market in that same location.

For people outside of Finland, Council Housing might sound like a curse word since state-provided affordable houses often have a bad reputation. In Helsinki, this is not the case. Council houses are generally well maintained and there are many newly built council houses in the city. Among these is Woodcity, which finished building two council housing apartment buildings in Jätkäsaari in early 2019. 

On the downside, council houses in Helsinki are in huge demand and hard to get. The council housing system is based on the level of urgency. They have three categories listed on their website: Extremely Urgent, Urgent and Not Urgent. You can read more about the categories here

If you are willing to move a bit outside the city centre the likelihood of getting a place through HEKA increases, but these houses are still in high demand. Many people apply for years without luck. However, it is still worth the try. 

So how to apply? If you have Finnish online banking you can fill in an application for council housing here. Apply here if you don’t have online banking yet.  

M2-kodit

Another inexpensive housing provider is M2-kodit. In their own words, they provide “the most generous square meters in the city”. M2-Kodit operates under the Y-Foundation which aims to increase equality by providing affordable housing in big cities around Finland.

The problem with M2-Kodit is the same as with council housing: the demand is huge and getting one of their apartments is difficult. The apartments are given out based on need and the value of applicant’s assets cannot be above a certain threshold.

The application is valid for three months. After that, you need to renew it if you are still searching for a place to live. You can fill in an application here. You will need a Finnish Social Security number to apply. 

Colliers Finland

Some state subsidized housing is rented through Colliers Finland. These apartments have a substantially lower rent than the private market but also different criteria when it comes to selecting tenants.

For example, there is a limit on assets and also your need for housing is evaluated during the application process. If you are interested in applying you can do it here. You will need a Finnish Social Security number to apply. 

HASO or other right-of-occupancy housing

Even cheaper than HEKA are the right-of-occupancy apartments and houses, AKA HASOs. The vastike – basically the equivalent of a rent – varies. For the newly built one bedroom HASO apartments in Kalasatama (very central) that are scheduled to be completed in 2021 the monthly vastike is estimated to be around €550. Amazing!

You will have the right to live in the house for life if you wish, unless you breach the terms of the housing contract.

The challenge with HASO houses and apartments is that you will need to get a loan from a Finnish bank or have about €50k in cash to pay for the right-of-occupancy in a central Helsinki location. You will get the money back once you move out so you won’t lose the money. But still, Finnish banks are very strict when it comes to offering loans for HASO residences despite the nearly non-existing risks.

The other issue is that if you are looking to get a right-of-occupancy inside of Helsinki, the line is huge and the likelihood of getting one depends on your number.

Yes, you’ll have to get in line.

The housing application process is based on a queuing system. You can apply for a number here. For the most popular locations (close to the city centre) you are very unlikely to get any offers unless your number is close to 20 years old! However, if you are willing to move outside the city centre or even, God forbid, to Vantaa or Espoo, you can get offers with a number that is even less than a year old.

Find right-of-occupancy houses and apartments from these websites: Haso, TA and Avainasunnot.

Private market rentals

Private market apartments in Helsinki.

Have some money and need a place to live right now? You can find rental apartments from the private market by searching Vuokraovi, Oikotie and Tori.fi

Receive sulonorth posts for free via email – no spam

Categories
finland

Finland’s business interest in the Arctic

Unlike Norway, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the USA, Finland’s territory does not border the Arctic Ocean. However, the northern parts of Finland (Lapland) are considered to be part of the Arctic Region, a polar area covered in ice and snow for most of the year.

Why is this region getting more attention from business people in Finland? In this article, we’ll take a look at the Finnish Arctic strategy.

Finland’s vision is to be an active and responsible Arctic actor in the midst of change 

According to a publication from the Prime Minister’s Office of Finland, Finland declared its own Arctic vision in 2012:

Finland is an active Arctic actor with the ability to reconcile the limitations imposed and business opportunities provided by the Arctic environment in a sustainable manner while drawing upon international cooperation”.

What does this mean? Essentially, the significance of the Arctic region has increased and Finland possesses relevant expertise. Finland wants to contribute to the sustainable development of the Arctic region. At the same time, Finland is engaged in the international efforts to exploit the economic opportunities emerging in the northern region.

An Arctic railway?

One of the ways that Finland could be part of the Arctic business ecosystem is by building a railway that would connect Finland to the Arctic Sea through Norway. In 2018, the Finnish and Norwegian governments announced their plans for this kind of connected railway.

Both the Finnish and Norwegian governments see the potential for an avenue that could provide a more direct route for exporting Arctic resources, and also help a booming tourist industry in northern Europe.

Yle reported this May that tourism in Finnish Lapland increased by 3% in 1Q2019 compared to the previous year. American tourists are visiting Lapland at a particularly increasing rate and the amount of American tourists increased by staggering 66% in that period compared to 1Q2018.

Focus on Food, Maritime and Mining

Besides tourism, Finland sees much potential in the Arctic food industry as food from this region has a pure and healthy reputation globally. Especially Arctic berries are being used and sold as a superfood in powder form all over the world. Just earlier this month, a Tampere University study released promising data on the health benefits of lingonberries. We love lingonberries! The demand for these types of food products has increased in Asia, according to Natural Resources Institute Finland.

Mining is also a large industry in Finland’s Arctic region. According to House of Lapland – a publicly owned destination marketing company, Lapland counts for half of the total quarrying and mining industry volume of Finland and has more than €4 billion of investment potential. Several thousand new jobs are likely to be created in Lapland by potentially two new mines in the next few years, according to Lapin Kansa.

Another area of expertise and focus for Finland is Arctic maritime technologies. Finland has been a world leader in building icebreakers and ships for the extreme Arctic weather conditions. In May it was reported that Finland was bidding to be an icebreaker subcontractor for the USA, which is planning to update its icebreakers in the Arctic region.

The Arctic sea ice is vanishing –  New shipping routes are emerging

There’s another side to the Arctic story. And it’s not exactly all Euros and lingonberries.

You probably know the story: global warming has impacted the Arctic region more than any other place in the world. During the past decades, the Arctic region has changed radically, with higher temperatures having a great impact on the environment. As the climate has warmed steadily for decades, the Arctic sea ice has melted simultaneously, as the graph shows. 

In the future, when the Arctic summers will most likely be free of sea ice (in a matter of decades, according to experts), there will be lots more interest in this Arctic region, especially from the economic point of view.

Take the Northeast passage, for example. It has traditionally been open for sea traffic for only two months in a year. But with the help of icebreakers, it is open from July to November in 2019. The Northeast passage shortens the distances of shipping between Asia and Europe by thousands of kilometers. 

You can make money when you save money. Finland will have plenty of company up in the, previously, desolate north.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

Categories
finland Politics

The Finns, a right-wing political party, has gained popularity among educated business people in Finland

Earlier this week, a poll showed that populist Perussuomalaiset (the Finns / True Finns) remained the most popular political party in Finland. 23% of the 3,414 people surveyed over the course of about one-month supported the Finns, while 17.3% backed Kokoomus (the National Coalition Party), the second most popular party.

So soon after the spring parliamentary polls, it’s too early to think about new elections in Finland. However, the popularity of the Finns will be of concern to moderate-minded individuals, given the party’s anti-immigrant stance and critical views of the EU. Along with these factors, the Finns’ policies towards environmentalism, for example downplaying the importance of taking action to prevent climate change, may also be concerning to some. Yet these policies are winning over voters.     

Who are the Finns? 

The Finns became one of the most popular parties in Finnish politics after their election win in 2011. In 2019 parliament elections, they were the second-most popular party (17.5 % of all votes) after the Finnish Social Democratic Party (17.7% of all votes). The SDP’s popularity has since dropped to 13.9%, according to the poll mentioned above, mainly due to frustration with a lack of concrete steps by the government

It definitely looks like the Finns party has established themselves on the Finnish political map. One of the reasons for their success and popularity is their anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic political views. Having shown their popularity during the spring elections, the Finns are now sitting comfortably in the opposition, able to critique the slow-to-perform coalition government.

Who supports the Finns?

The Finns have traditionally been most popular among more nationalist men with lower levels of education.

They’ve also been popular among those who would like to keep ‘Finland for Finnish people,’ individuals who see globalism as a threat, not as an opportunity. According to a survey that was conducted in 2016, 75% of the members of the Finns party were men, and 30% of the members had  a degree in higher education (university or polytechnic). Only 10% of Finns party voters had a degree in higher education.

As in other countries, right-wing populism has gained momentum in Finland in recent years. Perussuomalaiset (ie the Finns party) became famous after their “Jytky” (it’s how they named their election win) in 2011. After the great recession in 2008, right-wing populism has grown in many countries (see the graph below). There has also been more “Jytkys”  in the 2010s than just the Finns’ election win in 2011: the UK’s vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president in 2016 for example.

Today, the Finns are increasingly supported by young men under the age of 25 and those who are aged 35-64.  

Business people are also starting to like the Finns party 

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the most popular newspaper in Finland,  people who voted for the Finns party in this year’s parlamentary elections were more right-wing and more educated than in previous elections. According to Suomen Uutiset, engineers, chief financial officers and ITC experts and other educated professionals share more and more of the worldview of the Finns party.

A typical example of a new supporter or member of the Finns could be Veikko Vallin, “The Trump of Tampere”, who joined the Finns party in 2017. He is a Member of Finnish Parliament, an entrepreneur and a millionaire who is against “bad” immigration and who would like to tax corporations and businesses less in Finland. He supports Donald Trump, the US president.

More and more municipal politicians have also become supporters of the Finns party after becoming unhappy with their previous party. The “Trump of Tampere” also claims that “many bankers and CEOs have patted my shoulder”.

Supporters of the Finns party are not only lower income people, at least not anymore. It will be very interesting to see if the Finns can attract more business people to support them in the future.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.