Family leaves are distributed unevenly

In Finland, women take the majority of family leaves. Mothers accounted for 90.5% and fathers 9.5% of all maternity, paternity and parental allowance days in 2016. Women made up 93% of child home care allowance recipients.

Each family-leave reform that has increased the time on leave which is set aside for fathers has also boosted take-up of the leave among fathers. Still, one in five fathers do not take any family leave at all. Fathers’ share of the parental allowance allotment which can be used by either parent is as low as 1.7%.

More on family leave use among fathers:

  • Miia Saarikallio-Torp and Anita Haataja: Isien vanhempainvapaiden käyttö on yleistynyt. [Increase in take-up of parental leave seen among fathers] Laulu 573566 perheestä[A song of 573,566 families], pp. 80-115.

Home care a popular option among parents of small children

A majority of Finns believe that children should be at least 1.5 to 2 years old when they enter day care. Families’ financial and employment circumstances, child care ideals and perceptions of the quality of day care all play a role in what parents consider to be the best age for children to go into day care.

The popularity of home care is reflected in the finding that the share of Finnish children attending early childhood education is significantly smaller than it is in the other Nordic countries.

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The child home care allowance is problematic for female labour force participation

Despite repeated efforts over several decades to promote the equal use of the family leave among men and women, women still carry most of the career and salary risk that comes with family leaves.

Family leaves have direct costs for employers, for most of which they are compensated, but certain costs such as hiring replacement workers are not covered.

Mothers make up the majority of child home care allowance recipients. Long periods of time spent on family leave can erode women’s employment outlook, careers and salaries and ultimately their pensions.  Women’s earnings-related pensions are on average equal to 66% of men’s. 

The longest spells on child home care allowance are seen among parents with migrant backgrounds and those whose status in the labour market is precarious. 

More on the impact of family leaves on retirement security:

  • Karoliina Koskenvuo: Perhevapaiden vaikutus eläkkeeseen 1980-luvulta 2000-luvulle. [The impact of family leaves on pensions from the 1980s to the 2000s.] Laulu 573566 perheestä[A song of 573,566 families], pp. 116-135.

Take-up of the flexible care allowance remains low 

When it comes to providing care for children under age 3, part-time employment and the flexible care allowance have proved to be a more popular option among parents than the partial care allowance they replaced. A little more than 17,000 parents were paid the allowance in 2016. 

Following the introduction of the flexible care allowance, fathers’ share among the recipients increased slightly to around 10%.

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A wide range of social benefits for families with children

Kela provides the following benefits for families with children: 

  • maternity, special maternity, paternity and parental allowance
  • child care allowances
  • child benefit
  • maternity grant
  • child maintenance allowance. 

Total expenditure on family benefits paid out by Kela in 2016 came to EUR 2,935.7 million. At EUR 1,381.7 million, child benefits were the largest single category.

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Contact information

  • Anneli Miettinen, Researcher, tel. +358 50 559 9984
  • Miia Saarikallio-Torp, Researcher, tel. +358 50 324 3311
  • Karoliina Koskenvuo, Head of Research Team, tel. +358 20 63 41355
  • Maria Valaste, Senior Researcher, tel. +358 20 63 41880
  • Hanna-Mari Heinonen, Researcher, tel. +358 50 348 0372
  • Tapio Räsänen, Researcher, tel. +358 50 302 9292
  • Siru Keskinen, Coordinator (Statistics), tel. +358 20 634 1372

Email: firstname.lastname@kela.fi

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