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Sampo Terho, the minister for European affairs, culture and sports, walking into the press conference with Petteri Orpo, the minister of finance, to explain the details behind the government’s budget plans for 2019 on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The heads of the government have been discussing the next year’s budget for two days, and one could hear it from their low, raspy voices at eight o’clock on Wednesday evening at the Government Palace.

If you are a small entrepreneur, an upper secondary school student, a mother or unemployed, the government has plans to make one’s life a little easier.
For shoplifters and habitual criminals, things are going to get tougher.

For upper secondary schoolers and those in vocational studies, a subsidy of about 46 euros will be added to the study grant to help the students under 20 to purchase textbooks for their studies.
The subsidy is aimed at students from low-income families, which means that the total yearly income of both parents is below 40,950 euros. The new subsidy would become effective in August 2019.

This is a welcome gesture from the government. For example, President Sauli Niinistö has previously expressed his concerns about the high prices of most educational textbooks. Studies in an upper secondary school can cost as much as 2,600 euros. “Is Finland really a country of opportunity for everybody,” he asked previously.

Small entrepreneurs, who employ under 20 people, or sole traders, will be encouraged to hire their first employee by allowing them to discharge employees more easily based on personal reasons. Heavy drinking or drinking on the job could be a reason. Bad behavior another.

Ministers Terho, Sipilä and Orpo at the conference. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

According to Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, there are about 270,000 entrepreneurs who employ under 20 people and about 180,000 sole traders in Finland. “We will help them to take the first step so that they would hire their first or second employee. They have a tremendous potential to employ thousands of people,” Orpo said.

The Federation of Finnish Enterprises is happy of the government’s decision to help the small entrepreneur in need. “It’s a significant reform in job markets, which will increase employment and will help the following government to gain a 75 percent employment rate,” said Mikael Pentikäinen, CEO at the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, in a bulletin.

Maternity allowance, sickness allowance and rehabilitation allowance will be increased by about 80 euros a month.

For the criminal minded, the government decided to reform the fine penalty. If a shoplifter, for example, gets caught seven times a year, his or her fine could be converted to time in jail. Currently, fines given by the police cannot be converted to jail time, so habitual shoplifters have been known to tear their fines into pieces in front of the angry eyes of the law enforcement. The reforms are partly based on statistics. When the law regarding converting fines to prison sentences was removed in 2008, the statistics showed an increase in shoplifting by thousands from 2007 to 2009.

In addition, the government decided to revamp the active employment model to include many forms of studies as sufficient effort for the unemployed to receive their benefits.

In total, the government has allocated about 115,5 million euros to the new reforms in the state budget for 2019.