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Small towns in Finland look for ways to ‘stay alive’-

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University of Eastern

– Virrat, a small town of around 6,500 inhabitants in western Finland, recently announced that early childhood education will be free in the community from January 2023.

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As the population is declining in rural parts of the country, small towns like Virrat are doing their best to attract new residents.

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According to a study published by the University of Eastern Finland in July 2022, more than 60 percent (more than 200) of Finland’s 309 municipalities have seen a decline in their population in the past two decades.

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Statistics Finland has calculated that by 2040 the population will increase in only 63 municipalities and decrease in 246 municipalities. Population growth occurs mainly in the largest cities and their surrounding municipalities, while population loss is stronger in small municipalities with less than 5,000 inhabitants.

To meet this demographic challenge, many small towns in Finland are doing everything they can to “stay alive”.

In addition to the recently announced measures, starting in 2020, Virrathas provided €4,000 (US$4,150) to new parents, offered a 50 percent rent reduction to new hires for four months, and provided a €400 scholarship and free accommodation. to university students who live there.

Currently, 12 other Finnish municipalities also offer free early childhood education, Jarkko Lahtinen, development manager at the Finnish Association of Local and Regional Authorities, told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.

Lahtinen said that Salla, a northern town with 3,357 inhabitants, will also join this group next year.

Currently, 58 municipalities pay “baby allowance” -500 euros on average- to parents whose baby was due in 2022.

Henna Viitanen, the mayor of Virrat, believes that the most attractive of all the available measures is the 50 per cent rent reduction offered to new employees for four months.

The city has planned to extend the rent relief for another two months in 2023. According to Viitanen, the ultimate goal of the measure is to find a solution to the labor shortage. In the last two years, Virrat has attracted an increasing number of new tenants.

Miehikkala, a town in the southwest of the country with only 1,819 inhabitants, offers 10,000 euros to parents of newborns and a 4,000-euro grant to people between the ages of 18 and 39 who buy their first apartment there. These measures have been in force since 2018.

Since the beginning of 2020, Sulkava, a city in the southeast of the country with 2,412 inhabitants, offers a family package, which includes free childcare and an extra month for each child under 18 years of age. The total cost of the family package is around 100,000 euros per year.

Sulkava Mayor Juho Jarvenpaa said the city sees the family package as an investment in the future. (1 euro = 1.04 US dollar) ■

(Xinhua)

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