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Finland announces progressive parental leave policy

by Courtney Deeren - Managing Editor
Wed, Feb 26th 2020 12:00 pm
Finland enacted a landmark commitment to give parents within the country the same amount of paid parental leave regardless of their gender or if their child is biologically related.
Finland enacted a landmark commitment to give parents within the country the same amount of paid parental leave regardless of their gender or if their child is biologically related.

Finland made headlines in 2019 as the world’s happiest country. According to the World Economic Forum, it wasn’t the first time Finland had won and this report saw four Nordic countries topping the list. Now, Finland is making headlines yet again for another quality of life improvement. 

Finland, which is governed by a majority women, has approved equal paid parental leave. 

NPR begs the question “people often ponder how the world might be different if more women were in political power.” The answer lies in this new policy. “In Finland, where women lead the five parties in the coalition government, here’s one change they're making: equal paid leave for both parents in a family.” 

This policy will grant about seven months of paid leave to each parent, for a total of 14 months of paid leave, and the pregnant parent can receive one month of pregnancy allowance even before the parental leave begins.

The aim of this new policy is to be gender-neutral by eliminating gender-based allowances currently granting four months of paid leave to mothers and two months to fathers.

Parents can transfer up to 69 days to the other parent and single parents will be granted the full allowance of 14 months. 

Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, minister of health and social affairs, said the goal of this new policy is to improve equality between genders and to increase declining birth rates, according to Reuters. “This enables better equality between parents and diversity among families,” she said.

NPR says many of the world's developed nations are struggling with declining birth 


rates, and in order to combat that they have begun extending leave for fathers.

“A 2019 UNICEF report found, however, that even when fathers are provided paid leave, they don't necessarily take it: ‘In Japan, the only country that offers at least six months at full pay for fathers, only one in 20 took paid leave in 2017.’” 

And in Japan, the decrease in birth rates is estimated to be due to this lack of paternal help. 

“That’s seen as one factor in some Japanese women deciding not to have children: Mothers end up shouldering the burden of child-rearing themselves, and companies continue to demand long hours that don’t provide the flexibility required by working parents. Last year, Japan’s births fell to the lowest number on record.”

The UNICEF report also noted: among the 31 wealthy nations it studied, the United States was the only country with no national paid leave policy for mothers or fathers.

Finland’s prime minister told The Washington Post she thinks Finnish social policies could be a model for the U.S.

“I feel that the American Dream can be achieved best in the Nordic countries, where every child no matter their background or the background of their families can become anything, because we have a very good education system,” Marin said. “We have a good health-care and social welfare system that allows anybody to become anything. This is probably one of the reasons why Finland gets ranked the happiest country in the world.”

This new policy raises a lot of questions concerning the United States’ policies, especially since it is the wealthiest nation in the world but is unable to provide the same benefits to its citizens. 

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