Compared to other EU Member States, Finnish parents appear quite successful in combining work and family life. The fertility rate is among the highest in the EU at 1.8 in 2011, the majority of Finnish women and mothers work and child poverty rates are among the lowest in the EU. This is largely thanks to strong state support for parents with young children. Access to public day care is guaranteed to all children under seven and a generous system of family leave and allowances is designed to help parents cope with their child-raising duties, while keeping their jobs secure.
Reconciliation of work and family life has long been a priority of Finnish family policy. Finnish women have a long tradition of active participation in the labour market. Not only do most of them work, they do so full-time. At 67.4% in 2011, the overall female employment rate was among the highest in the EU and well above the Lisbon target. Female part-time employment is 19.6% compared to the EU average of 32.1%. As a consequence, Finnish women work on average longer hours than women in the EU as a whole: 35 versus 33 hours per week.
All children under seven years of age have an unconditional right to municipal day care services. Pre-primary education for six-year-old children is free of charge. As a result, 60.6% of mothers of children under six are in employment. The respective employment rate for fathers is 91.2%.
At 3.3% of Finnish GDP in 2009, financial benefits for children and families represent a high share of government spending compared to the EU average of 2.3%. The largest proportion of benefits is accounted for by child allowances and day care. Yet the level of spending on family benefits has dropped from 4% of GDP in 1995 and income transfers to families lag behind average salary increases.
Universal child allowances are available to children under 17. The monthly payment in 2012 ranges from €104.19 for a single child to €168.27 for the fourth child. For each subsequent child, families receive €189.63. Single parents receive a supplement of €48.55 for each child.
Finland records one of the lowest at-risk-of-poverty rates for children under 18 in the EU: according to EU data, in 2011, 11.8% of children in Finland were at risk of poverty.
A comprehensive leave system gives both parents a chance to care for their children. The maternity leave amounts to 105 working days (about 18 weeks). 158 working days (about 26 weeks) of parental leave can be shared between mother and father. Benefits during maternity, paternity and parental leave are earnings-related. The first 56 days of maternity leave are paid at 90% of previous annual earnings. After this initial period of maternity leave, as well as during paternity and parental leave, a benefit is paid at 70–75% of earnings.
Financial assistance during the period corresponding to maternity and parental leave (covering roughly the first year of a child's life), is available also to unemployed parents. It amounts to a minimum of €22.96 per working day (about €574 per month in 2012). The same allowance is paid to people whose annual earnings were less than €9.842 before the birth of the child.
Parents are also entitled to paid childcare leave after the end of parental leave if they decide not to use day care. This enables parents to look after a child under the age of three without giving up their jobs. In 2012 this basic childcare allowance was €327.46 per child per month. Depending to the income level of the family and the size of the family a supplement, up to a maximum of €175.24, is granted.
In addition, working parents are entitled to work shorter hours from the end of the parental leave period until the end of the child’s second year of school. Both parents can take this leave during the same period, but not at the same time of day.
Despite the option for parents of sharing parental leave between them, few men take up the opportunity. Widespread use of home care and parental leave by women (92% of all parental leave days are taken by mothers) has had an impact on employment of mothers of children under three and career prospects of young women entering the labour market. Only half of mothers of children under three work. One in four women in the age group 25–34 has a fixed-term employment contract, which leads to career instability.
To address these issues, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health launched two campaigns—in 2002–2003 and 2007–2008 — to encourage men to take up paternity and parental leave. During the past decade, fathers have been encouraged to take a ‘daddy month’, which was then extended further. Currently, the father can take up to 54 working days of leave, of which at most 18 days can be used simultaneously with the mother. The daddy month (36 working days) has to be taken at the end of the parental leave period but before the child is about 16 months old. It is granted on condition that the father also takes the two last weeks of the parental leave period.
Thanks to these measures, take-up rate of leave by fathers has increased since 2002: 82% of fathers currently take paternity leave (the average length of leave taken is 15 working days) and 20% take parental leave and/or the daddy month (most commonly the period earmarked for fathers but no more).
In autumn 2011 a ‘frame agreement’ was drawn up between employers’ and employees’ organisations and the government on income policy and certain social policy schemes. Under the agreement, the obligation on a father wishing to take his father’s month to take parental leave immediately before will be dissolved. The last 12 days of parental leave can thus be shared as the parents wish, even when the father uses his individual leave period. In addition, the father will now be able to take his leave days any time until the child turns two. The reforms are intended to take effect in 2013.
The information in the country profile was last updated in November 2012.
Since 2006, the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health together with a group of civil servants and non-governmental organisations has been awarding a prize for ‘Father of the Year ’. The yearly prize is awarded in support of fatherhood and to provide good fatherhood role models. It is awarded for activity as a father, which has served to promote the value of fatherhood. The aim is also to support the reconciliation of work and family, contribute to children’s wellbeing and promote gender equality.
During the 2000s, Finnish local authorities have been developing ‘Family centres’, supported by several governmental programmes. Family centres bring together local services that promote the wellbeing and health of children and families. The goal is to support parents in their role as carers and child-rearers and to develop the social networks of families. Family centres are low-threshold centres that combine peer support and expertise. The services are multi-professional and cross-sectoral, including municipal maternity and child health clinics, early childhood education and care services, school and local family and early support services as well as voluntary and private sector actors. Due to their wide-ranging service network, family services can identify and address problems affecting children and families at an early stage. The model also benefits from the Nordic cooperation in developing family centers.