Farthers slow to use parental leave entitlement
Finnish mothers generally make full use of the parental leave entitlement, even though it would under present arrangements possible to share this with fathers.
Social policy is aimed to enable the sharing of responsibility for looking after children and the home by women and men. Fathers are meant to have as much a right to take part in bringing up small children as mothers.
According to recent research by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution (aka KELA), mothers are generally in the decisive position within families when it comes to discussing and deciding on issues of childcare.
Only one in ten of fathers in Finland make use of parental leave. According to KELA, the third most usual reason for this is that mothers prefer to use the whole parental leave entitlement themselves, or that fathers reckon that mothers are better suited to looking after children.
Unless families have planned otherwise, it is usually the case that mothers stay at home to look after infants while fathers go to work. The trend is linked to the close relationship mothers have with infants when they are breastfed. It can seem to mothers to be a great sacrifice to return to work and leave the infant to be looked after by the father.
But according to KELA financial reasons are the most usual obstacle to fathers taking parental leave. Fathers generally think that their domestic finances will suffer if they stay at home, though the tax benefits they receive when on parental leave suggest otherwise.
Renewed legislation on parental leave took effect at the beginning of last year. It is aimed at encouraging fathers to take a more active role in rearing their small children. The reform adjusted the parental leave allowance payable to mothers and fathers, increased maternity leave allowance, and made the schedule of paternity leave more flexible.