Weekly Highlight: 05.08.2008

Denmark:

Fewer applying to university
31.07.2008

A decrease in applications to post-secondary schools is forcing officials to question admission requirements.
This year’s admission figures for further education, released yesterday, and show a dip of 12 percent compared with 2007.
Experts are blaming the drop on increased employment opportunities that encourage would-be students to forego further education. They also fear the admission requirements are not as relevant as they should be.
If a student applies to study a humanities degree at university, they currently require English at a B grade and another foreign language at an A grade. This applies even if the chosen subject does not involve languages.
Helge Sander, the science minister, told Politiken newspaper he wants to see admission requirements reflect the subject choice and hopefully stop the declining rate of applications.
‘It is unbelievably important that we focus on new admission requirements. We need to strengthen the subject knowledge level from the time the student begins their studies to reduce the drop out rate.’ (kr)

Finland:

Poll: Law Hasn’t Curbed Prostitution
Published 02.08.2008, 15.12 (updated 02.08.2008, 21.30)

The majority of Finns believes that the 2006 partial outlawing of the purchasing of sexual services hasn’t put a damper on prostitution.
Some 60 percent of Finns deem that prostitution has not decreased since the enactment of a law in 2006 that criminalised the purchasing of sexual services in circumstances involving pimping or human trafficking, finds a poll by daily tabloid newspaper Iltalehti.
Seventy-three percent of men would not fully criminalise the procurement of sex, whereas about half of women would like to see a total ban on prostitution enforced, state poll results.
The majority of the people interviewed likened prostitution to exploitation. A third of women said buying sex is equivalent to inflicting abuse; however, only a tenth of the interviewed men held the same opinion.
Over 1,000 people were interviewed in the poll carried out by pollster Taloustutkimus and commissioned by Iltalehti.

Netherlands:

90% hospitals struggle financially
Tuesday 05 August 2008

Some 90% of hospitals find it difficult to remain financially healthy, according to a report published by Trouw on Tuesday.
Small hospitals in the Randstad area (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) in particular face an uncertain future, says research agency Strategies in Regulated Markets which examined the annual reports of 77 hospitals.
Small healthcare institutions in the Randstad may not survive if their profit margins do not pick up within the next few years, the researchers told Trouw. ‘They could be taken over by larger hospital groups,’ researcher Jan-Peter Heida told the newspaper.
The survey showed that only 10 of the hospitals studied are making enough profit to survive, while 16 are in the red. The rest make a profit, but less than the 2.5% which Heida believes is necessary to ensure financial security.
Heida also said that the free market will eventually solve some of the problems as hospitals will become more competitive by specialising in certain treatments.

Norway:

Four out of ten cheat the tax man
First published: 04 Aug 2008, 17:41

Higher income groups aged 40 to 59 are most likely to avoid paying tax when buying goods and services.
Four out of ten think it’s OK to pay cash and avoid tax if they need odd jobs done around the home or the “hytte”. The same proportion of the population say they have avoided tax, according to a recent study by Synovate on behalf of the Tax Payer’s Association.
“Tax evasion is more acceptable to women and moderately affluent income groups,” says Association boss, Jon Stordrange.
Despite campaigns to limit tax cheating, attitudes remain the same as in studies carried out in 2006 and 2007.
Stordrange thinks that tax rules have to be made simpler if people who clean and baby-sit are going to pay tax. He also wants the tax free limit raised from NOK 2.000 to NOK 10.000 (From USD 400 to USD 2.000).
“That way a retiree could hire his neighbour to paint his fence or remove the snow and still have a clear conscience,” says Stordrange.

Sweden:

Job loss insurance plans shed 500,000 members
Published: 4 Aug 08 17:03 CET

An estimated half million Swedes have left unemployment insurance funds (a-kassa) in the last two years, leading some to worry about the effects of potential job losses that may result from Sweden’s slowing economy.
“3.8 million members have become 3.3 million,” said Peter Schönfeld from the Swedish Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds (Arbetslöshetskassornas Samorganisation – SO) to the E24 economic news website.
Since coming to power in 2006, Sweden’s centre-right Alliance government has made a number of changes to the rules governing the country’s unemployment insurance programmes.
Fees have been raised and income replacement levels lowered, resulting in a 13 percent reduction in the number of people choosing to participate in the programmes.
The new rules have also made it harder to attract students, who usually help replace members who retire.
Schönfeld explained that the loss in membership is significantly greater than the usual loss of 80,000 to 100,000 members who leave unemployment insurance funds every year.
He estimates that the between 30,000 and 40,000 have chosen not to sign on to some form of unemployment insurance scheme, leaving them vulnerable in the case of layoffs as they lack any form of income replacement.
The higher fees have also caused larger numbers of workers near retirement age to leave the plans, either because they don’t have the means to pay the new fees or because they don’t fulfill the new criteria for income replacement.
“The hotel and restaurant employee’s unemployment insurance fund has lost nearly 30 percent since October 2006,” said Schönfeld.
“[Many] are low-paid and many have few working hours, and many are perhaps unsure of whether they would receive any income replacement.”
Elsewhere, Småföretagarna, the fund for small business owners, and the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel), have lost 25 percent and 30 percent of their members, respectively.
Workers who aren’t a member of any unemployment insurance scheme but have been employed full time for at least one year are eligible for basic income replacement of 320 kronor ($53) a day.
The government has plans to introduce obligatory unemployment insurance, set to take effect in 2010, which would cover 4.2 million Swedes.
Plans for the new scheme have yet to be finalized, however.

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