CEO Whalroos claims the social welfare system marginalizes Finns

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

Björn Wahlroos, chairman of the board of banks Sampo Group, Nordea and forest group UPM-Kymnmene, was quoted on Sunday’s Helsingin Sanomat as stating that the   present social welfare state system is the main culprit for marginalizing Finns. He said that outgoing President Tarja Halonen had put a dent in the credibility of the executive branch by polarizing Finnish society. 

“During Halonen’s mandate the [credibility of] presidential institution has suffered,” he said. “I wouldn’t [go as far as to] state that she was not fit to be president, but her position has been different from what the people expressed in the parliamentary election.”

What is Whalroos implying? Does he claim that while 81% of Finns did not vote for an anti-EU and anti-immigration party, the Perussuomalaiset (PS), the president should jump on the populist bandwagon and echo what 19.1% of Finns voted for?

Since Whalroos represents the conservative model of our society, or the epitome of capitalist greed for some, his views have a lot of relevance to Finns but especially to immigrants and minorities.

If more social inequality is going to occur in Finland in the years ahead due to the diminishing role of the welfare state, the impact on Finns, immigrants and minorities will not only come in benefits but in a totally new set of values. This, I believe, is the central issue. What are those new values that will guide us in an ever-growing dog-eat-dog society?

One of the first matters to fly out of the window in Whalroos’ economic model for Finland is social equality (tasa-arvo).

But concepts such as social equality have little meaning for immigrants, minorities and Finnish with international backgrounds if they do not exist in practice. Even if we have to take Wahlroos’ claims with a pinch of salt, he is right in claiming that the present social welfare system does marginalize some people, especially immigrants.  City officials and politicians use social welfare services to sweep under the rug serious social problems like acceptance of immigrants.

Moreover, Whalroos, a former activist of the communist party when he was a student, simplifies things and stumbles on the same problem that other conservatives make: Less control of the economy will resolve all of our society’s problems.

If you want to see what kinds of societies economic liberalism has created, visit the United States and other countries like Argentina. You will rapidly get a good idea of how neo-liberal capitalism  has fueled social inequality, poverty at the cost of higher dividends for shareholders.

While Whalroos speaks highly of President-elect Sauli Niinstö, it is unclear if the new president will be as outspoken as his predecessor on issues like social inequality and racism.

A poll by MTV3 of the presidential candidates showed that Niinistö agreed with PS chairman Timo Soini and Sari Essayah of the Christian Democrats that the far right did not pose a threat to Finland.

  1. Peter

    Depressed immigrant: Please note that this provides evidence that some individuals in Finland are deeply racist or xenophobic. By stating that Finns are racist, you stereotype all “Finns” as racists. This is not the case I assure you.

    I understand that you are upset by the way you have been treated by the racist element of our society, but this doesn’t mean that you should assume that every person here is a racist. There are people in Finland–Finns–who have been the subject of threats and intimidation for daring to stand up against racism and other bigoted attitudes in our society. Are you being fair on them when you state that “Finns are racist”?

    You end up constructing an “Us” vs. “Them” scenario by using such language. If we are ever going to combat racism in our society, we mush work together as one. We are ALL in the same boat!

    Finally, the site you have posted is owned by Alma Media. They are responsible for the content of this website. I suggest that you make a complaint to them about the content of their web forum.

    Alternately, you may wish to report the content to Helsingin Sanomat. I’m sure they’d love publish a story about their competitor hosting racist fora. 😉

  2. khr

    My guess would be that Wahlroos didn’t refer so much to PS, as to Kokoomus becoming the largest party. Whatever his past, he’s now very much the spokesman of big money, and Halonen being of the left wing of SDP has been distasteful to him.

    Niinistö has always been a bit of an independent thinker who does not always agree with his party, so he may well manage to become a president most of the people are content with. We shall see – in any case he deserves the chance to show where he stands.

  3. justicedemon

    Peter

    Haven’t you heard that the Finns are a political party now? It’s entirely fair political comment to describe the Finns as racist homophobes, islamophobes and Europhobes, at least in English.

    The forum in question is merely a gathering of supporters of this political party.

    The latest bilious outpouring seems to have crashed the forum in question as of 11.45 today.

  4. Mark

    I agree with Peter, Depressed Immigrant, you have to be more careful with your language unless you want to feed into the idea that immigrants are racists for criticising the racism against them. You have said many times on here already that you do not consider ALL Finns as racist, so I realise this is just a case of tidying up your use of the language. Unfortunately, many people will not give you the benefit of the doubt of knowing what you mean, and will misrepresent what you say.

    As for Wahlroos saying that welfare creates the marginalisation, what a crock of …you know what. This constant ‘individualisation’ of the problem, so that those who are unemployed or disadvantaged in a competitive labour market are blamed for their dependence on welfare, is simply glossing over one of the fundamental problems of a ‘small government – profitable private sector’ economy. Most of the economies of Europe have shifted to this model in the last 20-30 years, and all of them have seen a rise in their unemployment levels, regardless of recessions. The simple fact is that the government are employing less of those who have struggled to compete in the labour market. The goverment therefore has to pick up their ‘tab’ through welfare, while receiving little in the way of productive work. It’s not a great situation, but that’s what happens when you downsize government.

    There will always be a percentage of people who for whatever reasons, and there are many, will find it hard to compete in a competitive labour market. For example, the more attractive you are physically, the more chance you have of getting work. Fact. So, let’s blame all the ugly people for being ugly! Well, that’s helpful.

    The other thing is that the single biggest factor that minimises the polarisation of society into rich and poor is the welfare system that redistributes wealth. Remove or undermine this system and you will have far greater marginalisation. Not only that, but far greater child poverty.

    Clearly, Wahlroos agrees with those that see welfare dependency and ‘idleness’ as the great evil of our welfare state. The thinking is that if welfare pays almost the same as work, then why work? But why is it that welfare almost equals the level of the low paid? Because salaries are so low at the bottom end. Simple. In that scenario, welfare actually becomes a subsidy for low pay, as they do not earn enough (possibly because of a lack of flexible working and therefore part-time hours) from productive work and have to be subsidised with housing benefits and income supplements.

    However, the industrialists will cry foul if low salaries are increased, as we are seen to sacrifice our competitive advantage. So, in the name of competitive advantage, we have to keep wages as low as possible, which undermines the welfare state. And when that disincentivises the low paid, they are accused of being ‘idle’. Great.

    We should understand what Beveridge said in his famous report – to avoid the evils of welfare, you have to ‘make work pay’. Indeed, the great work that has been done to alleviate child poverty, which is determined almost entirely by social welfare payments, depends on having an incentive to work. The bar between the minimum level of subsistance, and the economic benefits of work needs a reasonable gap. The problem is therefore one of ‘globalisation’, which creates the unseen, undemocratic pressure for ‘low salaries’, which undermines the whole point of welfare in individual countries.

    The simple fact is that with the mobility afforded by ‘investment capital’, then capital is far better able to dictate wage levels to an extent that undermines ‘natural’ welfare states. Good for profits and the middle- to upper- brackets of social status, but bad for the poor in general. Indeed, with a complete lack of power to change the system that is screwing them so effectively, how on earth can we ever expect it to change?

  5. Depressed for Reason

    Mark: I agree with Peter, Depressed Immigrant, you have to be more careful with your language unless you want to feed into the idea that immigrants are racists for criticising the racism against them. You have said many times on here already that you do not consider ALL Finns as racist, so I realise this is just a case of tidying up your use of the language. Unfortunately, many people will not give you the benefit of the doubt of knowing what you mean, and will misrepresent what you say.

    Again i have to rephrase my sentence. I did not mean all finns, it’s stupid to generalize any group as one. What i meant by finns is by their nationality and how it’s acceptable racism is among most finns. Notice i said most not all. good day to all 🙂

    • Migrant Tales

      Depressed for Reason, I can only guess what you have gone through in Finland. As a Finn who can claim roots to this country, I am ashamed and even outraged by such uncivil behavior.

      Don’t forget that those who loathe you will find ways to invalidate your arguments. That is why I use some Finns when speaking of them. Nobody can mess with me after that. They can try but they will not succeed. 🙂

      What has Migrant Tales taught me? It has taught me to defend my rights with strong arguments. We have had many on this blog who come with their high-falooting arguments peppered with racism, xenophobia and the PS’ Nuiva Manifesto. They don’t last too long here. Most of them run back to hate forums like Hommaforum and Scripta.

  6. Depressed for Reason

    Migrant tales. it’s pleasure meeting you. its true that this site give a voice to people whore the least like myself. i wish there were more finns like you, i hope someday, oneday racism will fade away. that’s why we have to make effort to tackle it, expose it , where ever you face it. I thank this site for it’s job, now we can expose the real face of racism in finland.

  7. Peter

    Depressed for Reason: There are more Finns like Migrant Tales. We need to ensure that their voice is heard clearly above those who constantly shout their racist agendas. It is our job to engage in the public sphere and bring about change.

    When you refer to Finns accepting other’s (both other Finns and those of different backgrounds) racist behavior, you highlight a problem that exists the world over–Even if the disagree with racist behavior, people are more often than not afraid of confront the offender. They place their heads in the sand rather than get singled out and potentially victimized themselves. One can think of this as the school yard bully syndrome.

    This is visible in the videos of racist rants posted on here, just watch the bystanders! Many of them look angry and shocked but very few people challenge the perpetrator.

    If we commit ourselves to confronting those who behave in racist ways, hopefully it will catch on. If people see others confronting the bully, they will hopefully feel empowered to do so themselves.

    Let’s make it our mission as a society to say that we (civilized members) do not agree with such behavior. Let’s have open debate in migration and not allow those with racist agendas to control the show!

  8. Depressed 4 Reason

    PeterLet’s make it our mission as a society to say that we (civilized members) do not agree with such behavior. Let’s have open debate in migration and not allow those with racist agendas to control the show!

    Agreed 🙂

    • Migrant Tales

      Very wise words by Peter: “Let’s make it our mission as a society to say that we (civilized members) do not agree with such behavior. Let’s have open debate in migration and not allow those with racist agendas to control the show!”

      I raise my hat to you with great respect.

      Depressed 4 Reason there are more of us than you think. We are gaining a voice and that voice will get louder. That is what is happening. We will do it together and with an ever-growing number of people like you.

      Now, if you look a little bit in the future, how will those who spread hatred and racism look in the eyes of your children and grandchildren. They will sound as crude as the racist rant of the Klu Klux Klan in the the South during the 1950s. The difference will be a Finnish version of that.

    • Migrant Tales

      Depressed 4 Reason, Peter, JusticeDemon and other will tell you about My Finland is International, which is a social movement against the growing menace of racism and xenophobia in Finland. Visit the Facebook page. You will find a lot of us there.

  9. Depressed 4 Reason

    Migrant tales Depressed 4 Reason, Peter, JusticeDemon and other will tell you about My Finland is International, which is a social movement against the growing menace of racism and xenophobia in Finland. Visit the Facebook page. You will find a lot of us there.

    This makes me feel good, knowing that there are good people left in this country. When perussuomalaiset got alot of voice recent years, it got me thinking that all finns are racist and xenophobic, but im starting to see different now, there are good people left in this country who believe in humanity. i guess ill have to join you guys in your facebook movement. good looking out migrant tales, keep up the good work. peace.

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