Weekly Highlight: 05-11-2008


City councillors are finding that they can’t please everyone when it comes to organising the childcare system

Parents in Nørrebro are ready to throw a fit. Same with Vanløse. Concerns that their children will be hurt by proposed changes in the public childcare system in the two areas has some even threatening to move away from the city.
In Nørrebro parents are worried about the effects of a plan to stop offering a programme that sees their children bussed to preschools in greener areas outside the city centre. While in Vanløse they fear a proposal to change the classification of some preschools means finding a new place to have their children taken care of.
The programme bussing preschool-age children from certain areas of the most densely populated parts of the city to schools in suburban areas has long been a part of the city’s daycare system. In addition to freeing up space at often crowded preschools in their neighbourhoods, these ‘udflytterbørnehaver’ also allow children the chance to spend their day in a non-urban environment. But after the city announced that the 150 spaces now offered to children in Nørrebro would be transferred to Amager children, parents in Nørrebro say they are considering moving. Doing so would strengthen the area’s reputation for being hard hit by ‘white flight’.
Many parents point out that even though they see benefits of having them grow up in a multi-cultural environment, they feel their children also need time outside the city to experience something other than honking cars and cement playgrounds. A recent spate of gang-related shootings means parents are eager to keep their children as far away from the area as possible.
City councillors, however, defend the decision. They say Nørrebro has excess preschool capacity, while Amager has too little. ‘I can understand their concern,’ said Kasper Johansen, a Social Liberal member of the Child and Youth Committee, which is responsible for school issues. ‘I agree that bussing is an important part of the daycare system in Nørrebro.’
Johansen said he was willing to consider alternative solutions, but stressed that the lack of preschools in Amager also needed to be considered.   While parents in Nørrebro are concerned about not being able to ship their kids outside the city, parents in Vanløse are angry at a proposal that could see them dropping their kids off some place outside their neighbourhood.
A lack of daycare centres for children under the age of three – known as ‘vuggestuer’ – in the area mean the council is considering reclassifying preschool spaces for older children (‘børnehaver’). The city would find new places for 90 or so children in daycare centres affected by the change, but parents say the plan violates a 2002 council promise not to force parents to change daycare centres.
Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, chairman of the Child and Youth Committee, admitted that the change could mean moving children against parents’ wills. He said, however, that the national government’s limitation on municipal spending meant the city couldn’t build its way out of the problem.
‘Reclassifying schools and moving resources is the only option we have. Not least because other areas of the city are facing a greater lack of daycare options.’
Kjeldgaard and the mayor’s Social Democratic party have agreed to consider amending their plan, but  Johansen said he had no intention of supporting it. He called it a ‘knee jerk’ reflex based on uncertain forecasts about the number of school age children living in the area in coming years. 


YLE Publishes Income and Tax Data
Published 03.11.2008, 06.10 (updated 03.11.2008, 20.39)

Income and taxation data for 2007 go public on Monday. The information will also be available on YLE’s Internet pages.
Members of the public will be able to browse income and taxation information for the entire country at the address yle.fi/verot. Visitors can find information on capital gains as well as earned income for thousands of Finnish taxpayers.
The website will also provide a sample listing of the top earners in both categories for each municipality in Finland. The size of the listings will depend on the composition of the municipality.
Last year, the top income earner was Nokia Chairman Jorma Ollila, who raked in 9.76 million euros in taxable income.
The pages will also provide tax information considered to be of national significance. The listings provide income and taxation data notable figures such as captains of industry, politicians, giants of culture and media as well as sporting heroes.


Chocolate cigarettes labelled a gateway drug
Published: 4 Nov 08 14:05 CET

German cancer researchers and consumer protection experts on Tuesday called for a ban on chocolate and candy cigarettes, labelling them a threat to the future health of children.
Officials from the Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg and the Association of Consumer Protection Agencies in Berlin said sweets made to look like cigarettes – widely available in German supermarkets and kiosks – gave youths the impression smoking was a harmless pleasure.
“Candy and toy cigarettes are a constant temptation for young children and have been shown to double the chances of becoming a smoker as an adult,” a spokeswoman for the Cancer Research Centre told The Local. “Forbidding them is a question of taking smoking prevention seriously.”
Candy resembling tabacco products has already been outlawed in other European countries, such as Great Britain, Finland, Norway and Ireland. The prohibition of candy cigarettes is also outlined in a World Health Organization convention, which Germany has ratified.
The two groups calling for the ban believe the legal enforcement of the convention is a crucial part in preventing German children and teenagers from smoking. They see voluntary agreement as too unreliable and say only a legal prohibition of the sweets will guarantee child welfare.
According to a 2005/2006 US survey of nearly 26,000 adults, consumption of candy cigarettes at age 12 doubles one’s chances of becoming a smoker as an adult, regardless of the smoking habits of one’s parents.


Cabinet confirms growth ‘towards zero’
Monday 03 November 2008

Economic growth next year will be significantly lower than the 1.25% forecast by the government in September when it announced its national budget plans for 2009, reports Saturday’s NRC.

Following the weekly cabinet meeting on Friday, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and finance minister Wouter Bos warned that growth could even fall ‘towards zero’, the paper says.
And while the cabinet does not as yet expect to make cuts, there will be no room for extra expenditure next year. This means that if government spending rises, for example in the area of social services, cuts will have to be made to compensate, the paper says.
‘The Dutch will have to get used to the fact that it is not going well with the economy,’ Bos is quoted as saying in what is his most sombre prognosis to date.
Balkenende also confirmed that any profits made from the stakes the state has bought in financial services group Fortis, and the ABN Amro and ING banks will be used to lower national debt.


Higher birth rates among Sweden’s foreign-born
Published: 3 Nov 08 12:43 CET

Foreign-born women living in Sweden are giving birth to more children on average than women born in Sweden, new statistics show.
A study by Statistics Sweden finds that foreign-born women had a fertility rate of 2.21 children per woman, while Swedish-born women reproduced at a rate of 1.82 children per woman.
Sweden’s overall fertility rate in 2007 was 1.88 children per woman, below the rate of 2.1 children per woman required to replace the population.
Since 1980, the percentage of births registered in Sweden to mothers born outside the country has nearly doubled from 12 percent to 22 percent.
Part of the increase is thought to be related to the increase in the number of foreign born women of childbearing age which has risen from 11 percent of women living in Sweden aged 20 to 40-years-old in 1980 to 18 percent in 2007.
According to the report, Sweden’s foreign-born population has increased by more than one million people in the last 50 years and numbered about 1.2 million people in 2007 out of Sweden’s total population of just under 9.2 million.
Statistics Sweden projects that Sweden’s foreign-born population will reach 1.7 million by 2050.
Entitled ‘Childbearing among native and foreign-born’, the study divides foreign-born women into six different categories corresponding to their country of origin: other Nordic countries, EU countries other than Nordic countries, European countries except the EU and Nordic countries, and countries outside Europe with high, medium or low level of development based on the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI).
Women from most of the groupings were found to have a greater likelihood of giving birth to a third or fourth child compared to women born in Sweden.
The study’s authors attribute the difference in part to the tendency of newly arrived immigrants to have children shortly after their arrival and in part because some groups of immigrant women are more likely to start having children earlier in life, as well as a tendency for women in Sweden to only have two children.
In general, the fertility rates of women born in other Nordic countries, EU countries other than the Nordics, and highly developed countries outside of Europe such as the United States, Chile, and South Korea, mirror the fertility rates of Swedish-born women quite closely since 1990.
Women born in European countries outside the EU, however, have historically had higher fertility rates than women born in Sweden, as have women born in low and medium developed countries outside of Europe.
The group with the highest fertility rate includes women born in countries with low-levels of economic development, although rates vary greatly from country to country.
Women from Somalia, for example, have the highest fertility rate, averaging 3.9 children per woman in 2007. However, women born in Ethiopia have a fertility rate of only 2.2 children per woman.
According to Statistics Sweden, however, childbearing patterns for foreign-born women are demonstrating a convergence with those of women born in Sweden.

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