Finland: Family First


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Andrea Castaneda

Throughout Finland, new reforms have been taken for their parental leave laws. Finland’s women-led government announced to give both parents, no matter the gender, the same amount of paid leave, which extends to nearly seven months. Pregnant women are entitled to one month of pregnancy allowance before their maternal leave starts. Parents can also keep 69 days of their leave for later use, according to CNBC.

Finland’s government stated these changes would be implemented in 2021 at the earliest. The official working group is currently developing this policy. This policy promotes gender equality and the inclusivity for same-sex couples.

According to National Public Radio, the Minister of Health and Social Affairs Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said the goal of the “radical reform” is to improve gender equality and to boost a declining birth rate, according to Reuters. “This enables better equality between parents and diversity among families,” she said.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin called for states and companies to do more to ensure women were treated fairly, saying gender equality “doesn’t happen by itself.”

“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.” According to National Public Radio.

Under Finland’s current parental leave law, women are given 4.2 months of maternity leave, and men are given 2.2 months until the child turns two. The parents also get an additional six months to be shared within the parents.

Throughout the UN’s 193-member states, there are only eight countries without a national program for paid parental leave, and the US is one of those countries.

In Japan, both parents are granted up to a year of leave. They are not guaranteed pay from their employer, but they are eligible for government benefits.

In Sweden, both parents are allowed 18 months of leave. They can choose to be paid by the paid parental leave quota of 480 days. They are paid 80% of their salary but are unable to transfer more than 150 days of leave to the other parent.

In contrast to all these evolving countries, The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires 12 weeks of unpaid leave for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children if they work in a company of 50 or more employees. US employees with 50 or fewer workers currently have no legal right to unpaid leave to care for their children. Due to the current law, it profoundly affects women of color or those with low income as they are less likely to take unpaid leave.

According to a study by Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans believe that mothers should have paid maternity leave while only 62% think fathers should have paternity leave. Through the survey, people stated mothers should get 8.6 weeks while fathers should have 4.3 weeks. People from the ages of 18 to 29 said fathers should have a paid leave while only 55% of individuals ages 65 and older said the same thing
According to Mrs. Kristin Lilla, an English teacher at Round Lake High School, “The current maternity leave in our country does not support working mothers, in my opinion. The leave depends on the place you work. For example, here at RLHS, I can take up to a year off if I need to, which is nice, but I do not get paid time off. Most teachers take about three months off. I have to use my sick days if I want to get paid while I’m on leave. If I do not have enough sick days to cover the time I want off, I lose money. This policy sends a message that raising our youngest and most innocent children in this country is not a priority. The workplace is valued more than a parent being home with their child.”

Lilla added, “If the U.S. gave paid leave for mothers, I would hope mothers would enjoy the time spent with their newborns and not have to stress about money or work. Think about that! The first few months of a child’s life could be way more relaxed than it currently is. I’m a firm believer that happy people are better at anything they do over unhappy people. If we can relieve stress for new parents, they will be happier and that will radiate into their children. Since those years are so formative for children, we are setting an early precedent that we care about them.”