15.9.2018

Om inkomstskillnaderna (About income differences: an excercise in Swedish)


I wrote the below text to a Swedish-language discussion about income differences, partly to exercise my Swedish. Brief summary: journalists keep repeating a message that income differences in Finland are growing at an alarming pace right now. They repeat this from year to year. Below are examples from a period of more than a dozen years.

But when you look at the actual statistics, the net income differences (disposable income) have been roughly the same since the end of Finland's huge 1990's recession.

Papers and television create an alternative truth by repeating and repeating claims that effectively are a lie. FAKE NEWS.

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Om du läser media kommer du säkert att tro att inkomstskillnaderna växer väldigt snabbt hela tiden. Journalisten fortsätter att upprepa och upprepa detta. Se exempel nedan.

Men i verkligheten, när man tittar på folkets verkliga netinkomst, är det inte så. Inkomstskillnaderna har varit ungefär på samma nivå sedan år 2000.

Inkomstskillnaderna ökar lite i högkonjunktur och minskar lite i lågkonjunktur. Det här är inte en bra anledning att önska att ha en lågkonjuktur.

I stället för att lyssna på journalister, vars arbete är att hitta en skandal och lura klicker, titta på statistiken. De kommer från officiella siffror - skatteuppgifter och information om sociala överföringar som betalas ut till människor.

Här har vi exemplar av vad journalister skriver genom åren. Det är klart att de har hört en lögn så många gånger att de tror den själv, och sedan upprepar de det igen, för det är vad publiken vill höra. Deras publik tycker inte om sanningen.

2002: Tupo lisää taas tuloeroja
https://www.hs.fi/mielipide/art-2000004099647.html

2004: Miksi Suomen tuloerot ja köyhyys ovat kääntyneet kasvuun?
https://www.labour.fi/?wpfb_dl=4566

2006: Kotitalouksien tuloerot kasvussa
https://www.mtv.fi/uutiset/talous/artikkeli/kotitalouksien-tuloerot-kasvussa/2097870

2008: Kotitalouksien tuloerot kasvoivat
https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-5226423

2010: HS: SUOMEN TULOEROT KASVAVAT NOPEITEN
http://www.osallisuustalous.fi/pareconfinland/2010/11/hs-suomen-tuloerot-kasvavat-nopeiten.html

2011: SUOMESSA YKSI NOPEIMMISTA TULOEROJEN KASVUISTA
https://www.kansanuutiset.fi/artikkeli/2700211-suomessa-yksi-nopeimmista-tuloerojen-kasvuista

2012: Halonen epäilee: Tuloerojen kasvua ei haluttu tunnistaa
https://www.mtv.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/artikkeli/halonen-epailee-tuloerojen-kasvua-ei-haluttu-tunnistaa/2304764#gs.QU2j6X0

2014: Maailma on rikkaampi kuin koskaan, mutta tuloerot kasvavat
https://www.maailma.net/uutiset/maailma-on-rikkaampi-kuin-koskaan-mutta-tuloerot-kasvavat

2015: Tuloerot kasvavat – tämä syy pysyy piilossa
https://www.is.fi/taloussanomat/porssiuutiset/art-2000001893635.html

2017: Köyhät köyhtyvät ja rikkaat rikastuvat: Laskelmat todistavat tuloerojen kasvavan
https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9832572

2018: Inkomstskillnaderna ökar i Norden
https://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2018/05/03/inkomstskillnaderna-okar-i-norden

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Men om du vill titta på siffrorna, gå till Statistikcentralen. Inkomstskillnaderna gick ner på 1970-talet, de gick upp på 1990-talet när de återhämtade sig från den hemska recessionen, och efter år 2000 har de förändrats väldigt lite.
https://www.stat.fi/til/tjkt/2016/01/tjkt_2016_01_2017-12-20_tie_001_fi.html

Här är hur den ser ut:

Och här är hur det jämför med andra europeiska länder idag:

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Alltså våra inkomstskillnader är bland de lägsta i Europa.

30.3.2018

The bizarre leaflet for those who have married a child


At the end of March, Sweden had quite a media storm due to a leaflet published by the country's National Board of Health and Welfare: "Information to you who are married to a child".

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After media outcry, the brochure was pulled from distribution on the Board's Web pages, but it is of course available in original form in many places, e.g. here.

Some people have pointed out that there is nothing wrong with this, it is what the authorities should do  - inform newly arrived migrants about what is not legal nor allowed in Sweden.

But the problem with this brochure is not that it informs about what is suitable in Sweden. It is the job of authorities to inform. But the way this brochure was written seems to indicate a huge level of naivety. It's written as "information to you who are married to a child", much as you would write a brochure "information on how to apply for child benefits" or "information on available interpreting services". It says that marriage to a child is "olämplig", which translates "inappropriate" or "improper".  Nothing about the possible consequences - probably, because there are none.

Child marriage should be a crime in Sweden. What the brochure  should have is a big red headline "Child marriage is forbidden in Sweden" and "Sex with minors is punishable with a jail term".

Of course, it cannot say this because it's not how things really stand.  Swedish law is a bit weak here, and authorities are rather inefficient in working against child marriages, even forced marriages.

In 2016, the UN Association in Sweden complained that the legislation against child marriages is "toothless" in Sweden.

Göteborgsposten reported how 12-year-old Alicia was sent from Sweden to a forced marriage with a cousin in Iraq, where she had to submit to sex and give birth to children. Not on first try though; first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, simply because her reproductive organs were not quite ready yet at the age of 13. Then she had two children. When she finally managed to come back to Sweden some years later, her rapist (which is how I rather call the "husband") applied for custody of her children. And bizarrely, a Swedish court granted him  joint custody, and because of this, he also got residence permit.

Also bizarrely, although child marriages are theoretically forbidden, the rules for child benefits specifically list that being married  disqualifies a child from child benefits.




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The brochure would surely serve its audience better if it had been published in Arabic, Urdu and Farsi, but then it maybe would not have quite got the media attention it now got. It is normal that controversial things get a lot of attention in Sweden if they are written in Swedish or English, but mosques are quite free to preach for murdering Jews if they do it in Arabic - even the state subsidies for organisations doing this are not impacted.

As such, the brochure indicates a sort of "racism of low expectations". Its infantile tone is directed at people who can read three-word sentences and then believe and trust them blindly. This is the actual shortcoming of the National Board of Health and Welfare. They think those brown people are not quite adults. Regardless of language, you would never write a brochure in this way to an ethnic Swede who plans to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. You would threaten him with prison.

Sweden is perhaps waking up. Just a few days before this outcry, the parliament accepted a motion to ban child marriages, although the government coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Left Party voted against it because the motion was initiated by the majority opposition. The media storm has then inspired many copycat brochure covers for related problems in Sweden:
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"Information to you who are married to several children"

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"Information to you who stone women to death for adultery"
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"Information to you who are considering to throw your sisters off the balcony"

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"Information to you who are throwing hand grenades in residential areas"

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"Information for you who are evading taxes"

(Mona Sahlin, former chairwoman of Social Democrats, had some tax trouble).

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"Information to you who are still a Social Democrat"

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"Information to you who are planning to hire black market workforce"

(This refers to a comedian who hired Rahmat Akilov to do some renovation for him, paying direct cash; later, Akilov became known as the terrorist who killed five people with a lorry in Stockholm)



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"Information to policemen who are stabbed by children who arrive without parents"

(The man in picture tried to kill a policeman by stabbing him in the neck near a demonstration of young Afghans who were demanding a right to stay. Support groups call them "children".)



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"Information to you who have pineapple in your pizza"

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"Information to you who wonder what happened to your country"

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PS. Why do I care? Why do I write this? Because my country tends to follow Sweden in most things, and because we're probably heading towards similar silliness. We and others are not going to fare much better than the Swedes.

Also, I hear a lot of relativisation "but there are child marriages in Finland an USA". Well, USA is slowly getting rid on them through legislation, and Finland has effectively done so; there are annually less than 10 marriages where one party is minor, and recently, in all cases the minor has been 17 years, usually marrying a spouse who is 19 or so - which is really quite different from a 15 or 13 or 12 year old child being married to a 40-year-old. The problem is not marriages entered to in Finland; it's the actual child marriages abroad which are then respected by authorities when they should not.

27.8.2017

The triple betrayal of not doing age tests


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The Finnish police now reports that that it can confirm the identity of the man who stabbed two people to death and wounded 8 in Turku a week ago. The police also reports that his real name is not Abderrahman Meckah, and that the man is not 18 years of age, as he had himself earlier claimed. He was born in 1994, so he he's about 23.

This is in no way surprising. Many have been suspecting that some of the young men in children's asylum centers are not actually children at all.  In fact it was obvious from the start. Look at the "17-year-old" who posed together with PM Juha Sipilä, in front of TV cameras. It very soon emerged that we was 20 at the time, not 17.

On the other hand, I've spoken to many of these boys when we arranged football trainings for unaccompanied minors at the time of the great influx in 2015-2016. I believe most of those I saw have reported their age at least approximately correctly. Young people's center was the right place for them. They were nice lads, just alone out in the wide world. It was easy to sympathize with them. I wish well to them. But some were obviously much older than they claimed.

Not outright believing everything they said was deemed bad. Many politicians told everyone with suspicions to shut up. Suspecting what these men told us would be racist, bigoted and stupid, hate speech, not tolerated. Suggestions for age testing were turned down, often quite scornfully, e.g. by Li Andersson (Left Alliance) . This was despite that fact that when testing was done, about 70 % of those tested were deemed not minors. (For the others who were tested, it remained sometimes doubtful, sometimes not).

But this whole mess makes me consider three different betrayals, done in the same deed.

Betrayal of the taxpayer

This may not be the most important point, but it is the most obvious. It is a colossal waste of government funds to put a 20- or 25-year-old man to a children's refugee center and treat him as a child, because the resources we expend on children are vastly more expensive than what we can afford to take care of able-bodied and able-minded young men. As taxpayers we have the right to be indignant.

And of course, in principle it was also a betrayal of security, although I don't think that's a big deal in practice.

Government: we told you we can see this is waste, and you turned us down. The biggest twats here are the Left Alliance, Swedish People's Party and Greens. But most of the others were similarly populist.


Betrayal of children

But if we forget the petty matters of money and resources, we also notice that we have put grown up men, 20 or 22 years old, or much older, to live in the same housing and go to the same schools with actual children of 12 to 14 years who just honestly reported their correct age. Is this appropriate? 

I think not. There are several risk factors. There is the risk of different kinds of exploitation. Sexual abuse is not unheard of, particularly among some of the ethnic groups involved here. There is risk of indoctrination and radicalization. Or just crime, petty crime or serious.

Betrayal of Abderrahman Meckah

On the level of individual people, in addition to the two women who were killed and several who were wounded, the one most betrayed by this situation is Abderrahman Meckah. Or whatever his real name is -- his identity is actually unimportant. But there are many young men like him. They have been lured to come to the northern lands, with the banners "Refugees welcome", with promises of a house offered by the extremely naive Prime Minister in our country, and of jobs, suggesting that they are actually welcomed by the receiving countries  and societies. That there were no jobs that they could do was not told to them. That the local job market is very specialized and needs high levels of education and language skills to participate, was not told to them. That there is ample resentment towards them was not told to them by the xenophilic activists, nor was it of course shared to them by the traffickers -- presumably mafias in many countries -- who made plenty of money when arranging the travel.

In a way, our political system created Abderrahman the pathetic killer.  And created Abderrahman the jihadist who sought meaning to his useless life by shouting Allahu Akbar when stabbing people. Abderrahman the despised prisoner who will have to watch his every step over the next decade or two, to avoid being cut to pieces by fellow inmates in his prison.

He alone carries the criminal responsibility, but he was set up by naive politicians. Perhaps good-meaning politicians, perhaps cynical and calculative populist "Refugees welcome" types, but in any case, those who sent the invitation are responsible for what became of Abderrahman, the knife and the market square in Turku.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle turku knife attack candles
Candles at  the square in Turku where two people were killed (Helsinki Times)



8.6.2017

Women's pension euros


We've been told how women earn less than men during their working life; now we're told  by Talouselämä that women get less pension than men do.

Well, that's correct when we look at it as a monthly payment, because men have worked more years, more hours, and have earned more and paid more in pension contributions.

But if we look at the total pension pot paid out, on the average, the picture turns around:



Retiring age Life expectancy Average pension Total pension
Men 61.3 78.53 1848 € 382 092 €
Women 60.9 84.13 1453 € 405 038 €



So, women are, on the average, paid out about 23 000 euros more during their retirement - despite the fact that men paid more in to the system. 

Sources for this data:

Average retirement age: http://findikaattori.fi/fi/75
Life expectancy: http://www.tilastokeskus.fi/til/ksyyt/2003/ksyyt_2003_2004-11-02_tau_001.html
Average pension: http://www.etk.fi/elakejarjestelmat/suomi/elakkeensaajien-kokonaistulot/keskimaaraiset-elakkeet/


29.4.2017

On hijab and David's Star in Austria

The Austrian president Alexander van der Bellen proposes that all women should wear a hijab to show solidarity to Muslim women in Austria and to "fight Islamophobia". As a parallel he cites that the Danish started to wear the yellow David's Star to show solidarity to Jews in their country during Nazi occupation.

This is an embarrassingly twisted view, for several reasons.

First of all, van der Bellen references a myth. The Danish king or Danish people did not start to wear David's Star in solidarity to Jews. Anyone can quickly check this with Snopes. It did not happen.

When a religious symbol is used in a
situation like in this Alamy stock photo,
that is what vilifies its meaning. 
Otherwise, no one cares.
Secondly, wearing hijab is a person's own choice. Whatever perception people have about what the hijab means is largely decided by how the wearers themselves behave and express their religion. As a religious symbol, European law should be neutral about it. But as it's a person's own choice, it's rather insulting to compare the voluntary wearing of hijab to a situation where Nazis would insist that people of certain race must wear a mark to enable persecuting them based on that race. Nobody should be proposing a persecution of people based on voluntary wearing hijab. In fact, even the Nazis did not require Jews to wear the star in Denmark.

(At least I hope the wearing of hijab is voluntary, and not instigated by fear of reprisals and violence.)

Finally, I can only wonder why van der Bellen proposes that Austrian women should start wearing hijab in solidarity. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense if Austrian men, and  Alexander himself in particular, would start with that solidarity?

17.4.2017

The lost tale of Turkey in EU

The Turkish constitutional referendum has been resolved in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's favour. Whether honestly, or, as is more likely, through some suspicious electoral practices, it doesn't really matter. Erdogan will cling to power.

It's time to look at the history of Finnish comments, which show how the local politicians, eager to please the policies in Brussels, have kept talking in favour of Turkey admitted to the union. We'd be in quite a trouble if they had had their way.

The articles are mostly in Finnish, headlined like this:

1997: MTV: Turkey's EU membership is being debated
1999: Verkkouutiset: EU countries support TUrkey's membership
2004: Greens: Membership talks with Turkey must be started soon
2005: Rehn would like to start Turkey's membership talks as planned
2006: Lipponen drivers Turkey's EU membership
2007: Olli Rehn: Turkey membership 'vital' for EU
2008: Foreign minister Alexander Stubb: EU must expand with consistent policies
2009: Matti Vanhanen supports Turkey's EU membership
2011: Erkki Tuomioja: Iceland and Turkey joining EU would strengthen the union
2012: President Halonen promises Finland supports Turkey's EU membership
2013: Journalist union: EU membership would improve Turkish freedom of press
2014: Europe-Youth: Turkey is willing to adapt to similar rules with other EU countries
2015: EK: EU-Turkey economic ties develop further

Finnish politicians apparently kept banging their head to the wall, because it would pelase Brussels. Then comes David Cameron, who is starting to fathom that his electorate really, really does not like to be in the same union with Turkey, or even in the same union with Jean-Claude Juncker who wants to be in the same union with Turkey:

2016: Turkey unlikely to join EU 'until the year 3000', says Cameron

Well, that tale is now over, in many ways.

I just hope, for the sake of the people in Turkey, that they can climb out of this hole without major violence and loss of freedom.

2.3.2017

You wanted identity politics. You got identity politics.

(I wrote this the day after Trump won the election, but forgot to publish then).

The world is stunned by Donald Trump's victory in U.S. presidential elections. I'll add my nickel's worth to the discussion why he won.

Trump won because his voters saw others involve in ferocious identity politics, and decided to do the same.

There was Black Lives Matter, tuned to a frenzy so much that they claim that saying "all lives matter" is racism. Really?

There are the people who demand "safe spaces" in universities, to avoid being exposed to controversial ideas or anything that makes them uncomfortable. This is against the very purpose of university, which is to spread, discuss and debate ideas. It's bonkers.

There was the Occupy movement, ferociously partisan.

There are various movements for sexual activists, for example the use the toilets not matching the actual physical gender of people. It's an important matter for a few people out of a million, and it's going all the way to U.S. Supreme Court.

These countless identity movements have left a large part of Americans feel that they are, too, a minority group. At least that they are treated like a disrespected minority group. So why shouldn't they rally to a candidate who makes them feel like they're finally being listened to?

Their vote counts.