Plots of land for one euro and cash handouts for newborn babies, anyone?
Municipalities in Lapland getting creative in the hunt for new residents; students paid hundreds a year to stay on the register
Plots of land for one euro, hard cash for infants, discount tickets, a mooring space for a boat free of charge, a sheepskin for the baby, salary subsidies - you name it.
No, it is not a belated April Fool's Day gag supposed to generate queues of hopeful dupes outside municipal offices.
The above are among the benefits offered by some municipalities in Finnish Lapland in order to persuade new inhabitants to move to Lapland - and to hang on to their present residents.
Student Maarit Korhonen gets EUR 500 from the municipality of Kolari every year as long as she is registered there.
This is the fourth year for Korhonen to be registered in Kolari, even though she has never actually lived there.
Her parents currently live in Kolari, while she is living in Helsinki.
The law says that a person’s place of domicile does not necessarily have to be the same as his or her place of residence, for example if a person has a permanent connection with another locality, for example through family relations.
Similar annual financial aid for students is also paid in a number of other Lappish municipalities: EUR 100 in Posio, EUR 250 in Ylitornio, and EUR 300 in Kemi.
The municipalities regard it as important to have these students as residents - even if it is just nominally.
The size of the population has a certain impact on the municipality’s image as well as on its state subsidies. Moreover, the municipalities are interested in the students’ tax revenues, even though they are small.
Korhonen calculates that she pays more taxes to Kolari than she gets back as financial aid. The arrangement appears to be beneficial to the municipality.
”I prefer to pay my taxes to Kolari, rather than to Helsinki”, Korhonen says.
In 2009, the number of students receiving financial aid in Kolari is 170.
”It was a good decision to begin to pay these incentives. We are one of the few municipalities in Lapland in which the size of the population actually grew last year”, says Heikki Havanka, the municipal manager of Kolari.
Havanka points out nevertheless that the positive development of the tourism and mining industries is having a more beneficial effect on the development of the population than does the municipality’s financial aid for students.
Kolari is home, for instance, to the Ylläs ski-resort, one of Finland's largest.
The municipality, which sprawls over more than 2,600 square kilometres, had a population of 3,878 in February 2009.
Lappish municipalities also have other incentives. For example, students whose place of domicile is Rovaniemi are entitled to a discount on a regional bus ticket.
The municipality of Posio pays a part of a young resident person’s salary, irrespective of where in the country he or she happens to be employed. The amount of such a benefit is EUR 75 to 100 per week, depending on whether the person has studied in a comprehensive school, upper secondary school, vocational school, polytechnic, or university.
In recent years, financial aid of this kind has been granted to around 100 persons in Posio.
”It is important that young people can come into contact with working life”, says Tuomo Niemilehto, the youth and culture secretary of Posio.
At the same time, municipalities also offer incentives for families. It is possible to buy a plot of land at a price of one euro, yes EUR 1.00, for example in Enontekiö and Kolari.
”We are offering these one-euro plots in the parish centre and Sieppijärvi, provided that the buyer promises to build a house in order to live in it. We have continued this practice for some years, during which time some five to ten houses have been built on these terms”, reports Heikki Havanka.
Lappish municipalities are also interested in "recreational residents".
If one buys a plot of land for a holiday home from the municipality of Posio, for instance, a space for a boat free of charge at the fish harbour of Mourusalmi is included in the deal.
”A free mooring for a boat is not very crucial in making minds up, but it is a nice bonus”, says Mika Riipi, the municipal manager of Posio.
Even babies are not always born in Lapland without some bribery: many municipalities pay ”stork money” of hundreds of euros to new arrivals.
Over the past three years, all newborn babies in Kolari have been given a sheepskin to welcome them into the community.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Pupils in Lapland travel tens of kilometres to school - sometimes illegal distances (25.3.2009)
Thai exoticism in Finnish Lapland (7.4.2009)
Finland´s internal migration evens out and becomes more balanced (9.2.2005)
Kolari, Western Lapland