1121 GMT December 15, 2017
But even against that backdrop, one statistic about Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, stands out: According to a recent OECD report, it’s the only country in the developed world where fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers, to the tune of eight minutes a day, according to theguardian.com.
The Global Gender Gap report rated Finland the second most equal country in the world in 2016, and the Economist recently rated it the third best country to be a working mom.
How did Finland get there? And what can the rest of us learn from this small Nordic nation that might accelerate the battle for gender equity in other places? It’s a story of collective action and political will, of a strong tradition of social democracy and an accommodating tax system.
But it also boils down to a key difference in how Finland frames the conversation: It’s not about what’s good for adults — it’s about what’s good for children.
Annika Saarikko, Finland’s minister of family affairs and social services, one of six female ministers out of a cabinet of eleven, said, “This is a question of gender equality, but it’s more a question of the rights of the child.
“This is not about the mother’s right or the father’s right — but the child’s right to spend time with both parents.”
Finland believes fathers play a crucial role in child development. The government offers fathers nine weeks of paternity leave, during which they are paid 70 percent of their salary.
And to encourage fathers to take advantage of the benefit, it recently launched a new campaign — with flyers showing a burly construction worker joyfully pushing a pram — called ‘It’s Daddy Time!’
Saarikko said, “We want fathers to take more of the shared parental leave available.
“We are quite sure if we look at the research that the connection between the baby and the father is really important — the early years are vital and we believe in investing in that.”
While she advocates for fathers, Saarikko is also a fitting example of how mothers in Finland are to a degree liberated from the constraints of motherhood by the country’s supportive policies.
She is 33 and has a three-year-old child in full-time public daycare. Her husband also works full-time.
She said, “You can be a young woman and a minister here. My situation is not abnormal. In Finland it is normal to combine work and family —it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.”
Finland’s current standing reflects a long legacy of women’s advancement.
The country was the second in the world to give women the right to vote, and the first — in 1906 — to give them full political rights.
Today, 42 percent of parliamentarians are women, whereas in the US, women hold just 19.6percent of seats in Congress.
Paulina Ahokas, director of Tampere Hall, the largest concert and convention center in the Nordic countries, said, “Finland was a poor country where women worked alongside men, and we all had to work together after the war to pay off our debt to the Russians.
“But women have also been involved in decision-making for a long time — we believe that [leads to] the best decisions.”