Weekly Highlight: 24.06.2008

Denmark:

More find work after loss of social security
24.06.2008

New rules introduced last year have forced more people into finding work after they lost their right to social security
A third of social security recipients, who lost their right to payments after a rule change, have now found work. Another 45 percent who lost their benefits are currently job seeking, according to a new study from the National Centre for Social Research and the Institute of Governmental Research.
The social security rules for married couples changed in April 2007. Couples where both partners were receiving social security payments had to have 300 hours of employment in the past two years, or risk one of them losing their benefits.
The new rule hit many immigrant families hard, with people born outside of Denmark making up 95 percent of those who lost their payments. Almost 700 people have lost their right to social security since last year.
However, the researchers feel that the rule change has helped some immigrant women to look for work outside of the home.
‘Many have been cut off from the workplace because of cultural reasons, but not all have chosen it to be so. For some immigrant women the 300-hours rule has been an argument that they can use over their partner,’ said Kræn Blume Jensen from the Institute of Governmental Research.
Even though a third of those affected have now found work some feel that the other two thirds are being abandoned by the social system, especially those who cannot work the 300 hours due to ill health.
‘Social politics in Denmark has always helped those who have been sick and unable to work. With the 300-hours rule, we are doing the opposite and pulling the economic security net from beneath them,’ said Bettina Post from the Association of Social Workers to public broadcaster DR.
The consequences for families where social security payments are taken away from one person, who is already unable to work, can be very serious. Over half had to borrow money from family and friends.
‘They don’t pay, what they can refrain from paying and some are cutting it very close when it comes to affording rent, electricity, gas and phone bills,’ said Henning Bach, a member of the research team to DR. (kr)

Finland:

Shoplifting Hits Record Levels
Published 24.06.2008, 06.50

Police received a record number of reports of incidents of shoplifting last year, writes the newspaper Aamulehti.
According to Aamulehti, police received 45 000 reports of thefts from shops and shoplifting. In addition, large numbers of attempted thefts were handled by shops without involving the authorities.
The value of goods stolen is estimated in excess of one hundred million euros. The most common items taken by shoplifters are perfumes, expensive items of clothing, and electronics goods. Beer is also a favourite with Finnish shoplifters.
The report says that the number of incidents of theft from shops has risen by a quarter over the past decade. A retailers’ association working group is currently considering whether retailers can prevent additional crimes by identifying previous offenders to their colleagues and preventing them from entering shops.

Netherlands:

Paternal leave on political agenda
Tuesday 24 June 2008

MPs will today debate a proposal by green party GroenLinks to increase the statutory paternity leave following the birth of a new baby from two days to two weeks.
MPs are evenly divided on the issue; the ruling Christian Democrats and ChristenUnie are opposed, alongside the Liberals (VVD). The left-of-centre parties and D66 back the plan.
The Volkskrant reports that the nine MPs of the anti-immigration PVV hold the key and are not revealing their voting intentions.
Employers are against the extra leave for new fathers, saying it will cost them € 200m a year.

Norway:

Poor English skills plague politicians, and their listeners
First published: 24 Jun 2008, 11:43

Some top Norwegian politicians speak such poor English that they risk losing influence as they stumble through prepared speeches or try to express themselves to foreigners, claims a professor at the University of Oslo. He thinks it’s downright embarrassing.
Bernt Hagtvedt, a professor of political science at the University of Oslo, is tired of listening to Norwegian politicians speak broken English when addressing foreign audiences.
Hagtvedt is convinced that their lack of English proficiency damages Norway’s effectiveness in putting forth its positions on important international issues.
“When their grammar, nuances and vocabulary are so deficient that it adversely affects understanding, we have a problem,” Hagtvedt told NRK on its national morning radio broadcast.
He claimed that even though children in Norway are taught English in the schools, it’s “a problem that many Norwegians think they are fluent in English,” when they’re not.
“We speak a simple English, with 700-800 words we know,” Hagtvedt said. “And we don’t even try to pronounce them correctly.”
He called Norwegians’ lack of English proficiency “an illustration of a general laziness in Norway. We’re not concerned with standards, and have no interest in striving for anything beyond what we already know.”
Asked whether he gets embarrassed when he hears Norwegian politicians speak, he responded with an immediate “Yes!”
Hagtvedt said it’s “abundantly clear that we must improve knowledge of English in the schools. And we should expect that broadcasters, politicians and other top government officials work on their English.”
Some have. Many, including former cabinet minister Anne Enger Lahnstein when she was in office, have attended language schools in England. And several politicians over the years have exhibited an impressive command of English (former foreign aid minister Hilde Frafjord Johnsen comes to mind) and several other languages as well. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, for example, can move seemingly effortlessly from Norwegian to English to French.
Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was thoroughly embarrassed after he spoke of writing in his “day book” (a literal translation of the Norwegian word for diary, dagbok) after meeting former US President Bill Clinton.
“It’s clear that language is power,” said Hagtvedt. “My simple point is, ‘work on it!’”

Sweden:

Study: Swedish teens ‘more stressed out’ at school
Published: 24 Jun 08 12:19 CET

Swedish 15-year-olds feel more pressure in school than their counterparts in other countries.
In addition, fewer Swedish 15-year-olds say that they like going to school compared with youth elsewhere.

And Swedish young people also report suffering from headaches and feeling down to a greater extent than those of a comparable age in other countries.

The findings come from a study carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) which looked at the health and well-being of young people in 41 industrialized countries.

The Swedish study included in the report was presented by the Swedish National Institute of Public Health (SNIPH) two years ago.

The comparison shows that Swedish children feel rather well overall, but the situation for 15-year-olds deviates from the pattern, which is a cause for concern.

“It is to a large extent the 15-year-old girls which report that being stressed out and not feeling well. The situation looks similar in other countries. One explanation could be that the girls feel greater demands on them to do their schoolwork, while at the same time feeling the pressure of demands on their appearance and demands that they maintain their social relationships,” said Lilly Eriksson, an investigator with SNIPH.

“The study shows that younger Swedish children feel better than the average of similar aged children in other countries. Swedish 11-year-olds are clearly better than the average in other countries and 13-year-olds are also in good shape,” said Eriksson.

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