The Finnish model for parents has gained recognition in recent years, especially compared to the inequalities in other models brought to light by the Great Recession. At 3.3%, Finland has one of the lowest child poverty rates in the EU as well as the world. This small Nordic country also boasts top quality education, from primary to university level, and rivals Denmark in the happiest countries rankings. All of these factors make Finland a great place to raise children – here are six reasons why parenting in Finland is better.
1. Babies sleep in boxes
There is no need for fancy cribs in Finland, the babies sleep in boxes here. The boxes are a gift from the Finnish government to all new/expecting mothers and contain all the things for a child’s start in life – clothing, diapers, outdoor gear, and bathing products. The box is big enough to be used as a crib. The infamous Finnish baby box started making headlines around the world when the Finnish government gifted one of the boxes to expecting royals William and Kate. Fortunately, you do not need to be Finnish or royalty (or Finnish royalty) to obtain one of these boxes; three Finnish guys started a company which brings the baby boxes to the rest of the world.
2. No “Tiger” moms and dads
In Finland, there are very few “tiger” moms and dads. In fact, most parents report just being happy with a “good, decent school”. Highly competitive environments are deemed stressful for children and therefore are not encouraged. This means that parents wanting a rigorous, elite education are in the minority, especially as most Finnish are also opposed to the ranking of schools at the primary level. That said, teachers are trained to work with children who are either more advanced or need special help, so all children will likely receive the education best suited for them.
3. Work/life balance
Despite high levels of workforce participation for both men and women, there are far fewer workaholic parents in Finland than in other countries. This is due to society’s emphasis on a strong work/life balance, with family life being especially valued. On average, Finns work 1,672 hours per year, less than the OECD average of 1,765 hours per year. Fewer working hours per week mean that Finnish parents can spend time together with their children as a family.
4. Maternity and paternity leave
In Finland, and in many Nordic countries, both mothers and fathers get parental leave after the birth of a child. Mothers are entitled to four months paid maternity leave and fathers can take up to 54 days paid paternity leave., Approximately 70% of fathers take advantage of the paid paternity leave. This means that in Finland, there is no stigma against men trying to take an active role in parenting, unlike in other cultures where it might seem not “macho” enough for a competitive work environment.
5. Affordable daycare
Jobs for new mothers in Finland are secure, so the majority of working mothers return to work after having a baby. Daycare is less costly in Finland than it is in other parts of the world, allowing mothers to smoothly re-enter the workforce when the time is right for them. The price is adjusted for income level as well, so parents of all economic means can have access to quality child care.
The overall theme encompassing the first five points is equality. In Finland, every child is guaranteed the same start in life, regardless of their parents’ situations. Inequalities still exist on a more individual basis in Finland, but the discrepancy is much lower and opportunities to get ahead in life are more or less available to all.
This is not to say that the Finnish model is perfect, or that every country can or should adopt it. But there are things that can be taken away from the Finnish system to be adapted into the US or the UK, for example.
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