Each parent will be granted 6.6 months' leave to care for their newborn child under Finland's proposed parental leave system.
Within months of forming a coalition government led by five women, Finland has announced plans to give all parents the same parental leave. The new reform hopes to get fathers to spend more time with their children as the nation continues its commendable attempts to promote wellbeing and gender equality. Under the new system, the paid allowance will increase to a combined 14 months for new parents with each being granted 164 days. Announcing the new plans, Finland's health and social affairs minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen told reporters that "a radical reform of family benefits" has begun with the new system's ultimate aim being to strengthen parent-child relationships from the very beginning.
According to BBC, in Europe, Sweden offers the most generous system of parental leave with each parent receiving 240 days each after a baby's birth. As of now, maternity leave in Finland is 4.2 months while fathers are given 2.2 months until their child turns two years old. Parents are also offered another six months' parental leave which can be shared between the two as they wish. However, data shows that under the current system on average only one in four fathers utilize their allocated parental leave.
Under Finland's proposed system, the focus is on the parental unit as a whole as opposed to considering the mother and father separately. Each parent will receive 6.6 months' leave while pregnant women get an additional month's allowance. Meanwhile, single parents will be allowed to use both allowances to care for their children. Parents will also have the provision to transfer 69 days of their quota. The announcement of the new plans come about a week after Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin stated that her nation still has some way to go to achieve gender equality.
Marin has also pointed out at the time that too few fathers were spending time with their children when they were young. While Finland's new plans are undoubtedly commendable, only time will tell whether the reforms will achieve the results the government is hoping for. Anne Lise Ellingsaeter, a University of Oslo professor who led a Nordic inquiry into parental leave, revealed that history shows otherwise. Although Nordic countries have led the way on giving fathers entitlement that cannot be transferred to the mother, it hasn't been a complete success. "Norway was the first country in 1993 to have non-transferable leave for fathers and then Sweden followed suit. But Denmark instituted a father quota in 1998 and abolished it later, and it hasn't been re-introduced," she said.
When women lead, policies that help families get prioritized.— Amy Diehl, PhD (@amydiehl) February 6, 2020
Finland's Prime Minister @MarinSanna has a majority female cabinet and is extending #PaidFamilyLeave to 14 months with both parents receiving equal leave quotas. https://t.co/RBasjxpjQD
Meanwhile, the European Union has begun exploring the same path with a 2019 directive giving member states three years to allocate each parent with at least four months' leave of which two months are non-transferable. A gender-neutral system has already been established in Portugal, with 120 days paid at 100% of salary and another optional 30 days offered at 80% of salary.
Today in European parental leave policies: Finland gets generous and gender-neutral. https://t.co/ALuBDRkLSf— Laurel Wamsley (@laurelwamsley) February 5, 2020
Improving citizen's family lives appears to be a priority for Finland's new Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who last month proposed testing a four-day workweek in the country. Speaking at the 120th anniversary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Turku, Marin said, "A four-day workweek, a six-hour workday. Why couldn't it be the next step? Is eight hours really the ultimate truth? I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture. This could be the next step for us in working life."