Should military service be shortened?

Finland’s biggest daily Helsingin Sanomat analysed this suggestion made by Left Alliance Chair Li Andersson during the party’s recent summer meeting.

At the time, the minister said that shortening the duration of civilian and military service could increase employment “significantly, by several thousand people.”

According to a report commissioned by the Left Alliance and issued by the finance ministry, employment would increase by about 4,700 people if the duration of the 347-day civilian service was halved and if half of the conscripts could complete military service in four months.

More than 20,000 people perform military service in Finland every year. The service lasts 165, 255 or 347 days, depending on the training. About 43 percent of the conscripts carry out the shortest service of about five-and-a-half months.

While Andersson’s party had described every unnecessary day spent in service as a waste for the national economy and individuals, some experts challenge this notion.

The well-being of society depends not only on the material standard of living but also on national security, according to Vesa Kanniainen, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Helsinki. A war may be a small probability, but “national security is about avoiding such a catastrophe,” he told the paper.

HS elaborated that the military service’s actual cost to society should be calculated through “opportunity costs” — the difference between the potentially civilian salaries not received and daily military allowances.

Invisible costs arise when the education of conscripts and civil servants slow down and their careers become shorter, professor of Economics Panu Poutvaarahas estimated.

Finland’s coronavirus ‘traffic light’ system criticised

The Åland County Council and the semi-autonomous government’s chief physician have called for more clarity from the Finnish government regarding coronavirus-related travel restrictions. They want to see less focus on infection statistics and more practical guidance on how to travel safely between countries.

Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet reported that chief physician Knut Lönnroth criticised the so-called “traffic light model” in use by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare THL that categorised countries as green, orange or red depending on their infection rate status.

“Estonia has exceeded the limit of 10 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and should be yellow. Sweden, Denmark and Iceland have fallen below 25 cases and should also be yellow. All Nordic countries except Finland and Latvia should now be yellow,” Lönnroth said.

Most recently the THL map however, had Sweden, Denmark and Iceland in red, but Estonia in green.

According to Lönnroth, maps and graphs can be useful to form a general opinion, but the situation is changing far too quickly. He also pointed out that the model doesn’t capture the stark variations in regional statistics within countries.

“Does it make sense to continue with travel restrictions between countries instead of working with recommendations and information on how to travel safely?” Lönnroth asked.

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