History of the maternity grant

  • After the enactment of the Maternity Grants Act in 1937, the first maternity grants were provided in the following year. At first, they were intended for low-income mothers only.
  • The introduction of maternity grants was prompted by concerns over declining birth rates and high infant mortality.Thanks to the maternity grant, Finnish mothers gained access to public health services. Finland has long had one of the lowest levels of infant and maternal mortality in the world.
  • Early on, the maternity grant was awarded and paid out by municipal welfare boards.
  • In 1938, about two-thirds of new mothers were paid a maternity grant. At the time, it was paid out at a rate of 450 Finnish markka for each newborn. This was equivalent to a little over a third of the average monthly wage of an industrial worker. The maternity grant was available as a cash grant and a benefit-in-kind, or as a combination of the two.
  • In 1949, the maternity grant was made available to all mothers.
  • Administration of the scheme was taken over by Kela in 1994. Previously, maternity packages had been provided by the National Board of Social Welfare (now the National Institute for Health and Welfare) and the Government Purchasing Centre.
  • Nearly all first-time mothers now choose the maternity package. Only a third of all expecting mothers opt for the €140 cash benefit.
  • The Finnish maternity package has for several decades been the only one of its kind worldwide
  • Each year, Kela awards around 60,000 maternity grants, of which about 40,000 are provided in the form of a maternity package.
  • User experiences and opinions about the maternity package are followed up continuously by Kela's Research Department. Bodysuits, coveralls and a sleeping bag that can also be used as a quilt have traditionally been among the most popular items included in the package. Survey reports are available online at research section.
  • For several years now, the fabrics included in the maternity package have been in neutral colours, making them suitable for both girls and boys and more easily matched with other colours. Before the mid-1970s, the principal colour was typically white.
  • The maternity package changes every year while staying true to its roots. Over the years, it has become increasingly environment friendly. As an example of this, reusable nappies have been included since 2000.

Last modified 25/09/2015
Updated 25/09/2015