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.

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Categories
education finland

You Need Education, Like It Or Not

The Finnish government elected in April 2019 is surely not dancing to the tune of “I don’t Need No Education” by legendary band Pink Floyd. On the contrary, the government has decided to increase mandatory education by three years. This “forces” all Finns to attend upper secondary education.

Tough choice

Allow us to continue with cliches: The Youth is our future. Nobody can argue against that. Compelling all citizens to have this additional education is an investment on Finland’s future. Yet this decision was reached only after some debate in late May as the Collation Party (Kokoomus) was initially reluctant, stating that the costs were too high compared to potential benefits.

It will be hard to say if the level of unemployment among young people will go down thanks to this new change in the education system. Many education experts in Finland see this as an unlikely scenario and none of the leaders of the largest vocational schools in the country support making the mandatory education longer, according to Yle survey. This could have something to do with the fact that the vocational school funding has been directly connected to how many students finish the school since 2018. Making the upper secondary schools mandatory for all kids will most likely increase the level of drop-outs, hence lowering the funding for these schools.

Finland’s Pity 5s

Already today, kids are pushed out of the mandatory primary school with “pity 5s” (the lowest passing grade in Finnish school), rather than making them repeat grades. These kids are the ones with little or no motivation for traditional schooling. The idea is that if you make them repeat a grade their motivational level becomes even lower, but this way of thinking often backfires. If there is no threat of failing many of the kids quit altogether. Teachers have to chase after them at the end of each semester to make sure that they have done all their exams. In the end, they get to use a book so that they get a passing “pity 5”.

Are these type of kids going to be motivated by extra mandatory education? Seems unlikely. On the contrary, they now have to attend the upper secondary levels without the necessary skills and are likely to drop out later and possibly become even more discouraged.

An alternative solution?

The best way to get these kids motivated would be to help them find their own interests. Providing a more customizable educational experience for kids that just don’t do well in traditional school would be beneficial. A system where they can discover different skills and find their true passions.

Of course, this approach also requires extra investment. However, rather than ‘wasting’ money making kids that don’t do well in school stay in school, this could provide higher returns of investment by connecting to students to their natural inclinations and allowing them to develop skills around those.

Upshot

The good thing about the change in the education system is that it does make it completely free to attend upper secondary schools. It used to be that kids would attend the school for free but they would have to buy the books and supplies themselves. This could add up to hundreds of euros annually and put a strain on lower income families who were already scraping by to begin with.