Victory for Dads in Finland! A woman-led centre-left government plans to give paternity leave for allowing fathers of new born babies, the same amount of paid time off work as new mothers. This means virtually doubling the number of leave for Men from the current one.
Paid paternity leave will be extended to nearly seven months, in line with maternity leave. Around half that time off can be given to the other parent. Pregnant women will also entitled to a month of pregnancy leave before the expected date of birth.
Minister of Health and Social Affairs Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said the aim of the “radical reform” was both to improve gender equality and to boost a declining birth rate. She said,
This enables better equality between parents and diversity among families.
The number of newborns in Finland fell by around a fifth between 2010 and 2018, to just 47,577 babies in a country with a population of approximately 5.5 million people. Pekonen said other countries such as Sweden and Iceland had seen increases in their birth rates after offering more leave for fathers.
Finland’s coalition of five parties, all led by women of whom four are under 35 years old, took office in December and has made gender equality a priority. Speaking at the 50th annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month, 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”.
A previous centre-right Finnish government attempted to reform parental leave in 2018 but eventually rejected the idea as they had found it to be ‘too costly’. Pekonen said a more equal distribution of domestic workload between parents has been proven to diminish the risk of divorce. She quoted,
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The reform will be a major change in attitudes, as it will improve equality between parents and make the lives of diverse families easier. The reform will support all types of families and ensure equal leaves for children regardless of the type of the family. Sharing parental responsibilities in everyday life will become easier, and the relationship between both parents and the child will be strengthened from early childhood.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health estimated in the press release that raising the duration of family leaves will increase costs by around 100 million euros. The estimate, it reminded, will be specified once the details of the reform have been ironed out by an official-led task force. The reform will come into effect no sooner than 2021.
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Over a longer term, it also improves equality in working life and in wages by directing fathers to use a larger proportion of parental leaves than before.
Most countries in the European Union are also more or less moving towards equal leave for mums and dads. The BBC reports that a 2019 directive is in motion giving member states three years to provide each parent with at least four months’ leave, including two months that can not be transferred.
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This move is surely a welcome step for every father who will now be allowed to spend equal time raising his child right from the time of birth. Joint parenting is definitely the need of the hour for all children, to enjoy love of both parents simultaneously. While the mothers could also get enough rest for themselves, fathers will become hands-on right from the beginning towards overall development of their child.
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