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On being a mom in Finland

May 8, 2014

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I thought I would comment and give you some statistics on being a mom in Finland.

Last year, YLE published a report indicating that Finland had been named as the best country in the world in which to be a mother. The five key metrics used in the calculations were income, education, female political representation, and the chances of survival for both mother and baby.

And as I was drafting this, news came out that Finland, for the second year in the row, was named as the best country in the world to be a mother. Yay Finland!

This month’s issue of Yhteishyvä (the monthly consumer magazine of the S-group) had an article discussing how being a mother in Finland has changed over the years. There were some interesting stats in there that speak to how things were and how things are. Here’s a peek:

  • The highest average of children per mother is 2.37 in North Ostrobothnia (Pohjois Pohjanmaa), 2.26 in Central Ostrobothnia (Keski Pohjanmaa) and 2.20 in South Ostrobothnia (Etelä Pohjanmaa).
  • The birth rate is declining in Finland. The Finns keep meticulous statistics on virtually everything, so here’s the lowdown on the declining birth rate: In 1910 92,984 babies were born in Finland, in 1960 82,129 and in 2010 60, 980.
  • Finnish mothers have 1.8 babies on average, but at the beginning of the 1900s that number was closer to five!
  • The average age of all mothers in Finland 30,3 years, but the average age that a Finnish woman has her first baby is 28,5 years.
  • With regards to mothers and work, based on 2011 statistics: 66,4% of mothers were employed. Mothers of 3-6 years who were working was 80,7% and mothers of children under 3 and working was 44,3%.

Some important milestones for mothers in Finland include:

  • 1917: Women working in industrial occupations were given 4-6 weeks of leave after the birth of a baby
  • 1927: Mother’s Day was observed for the first time in Finland, on the second Sunday of May
  • 1938: The first “baby boxes” were distributed
  • 1948: Monetary child benefits were legislated by Parliament
  • 1950: Laws permitted abortion when the mother’s life is in danger
  • 1960: Birth control pills were invented
  • 1963: A mother’s allowance was paid for 54 working days
  • 1970: Mother’s allowance was extended to 105 working days
  • 1973: Legislation on daycare for children was established
  • 1985: Legislation for home care and father’s leave was established
  • 1989: The child benefit began to be paid on a monthly basis
  • 1996: Legislation was extended to ensure daycare services for all children under school age (so that means age six and under)
  • 2012: So called “new families” (I assume this covers blended families and families of same-sex partners) numbered 53,018
  • 2013: Father’s leave was extended to 54 working days (and I know a few dads who have taken advantage of this! 🙂 )

A few years ago, I wrote an entry on what it was like to be pregnant and “go through the system” here.

And being a mother has also meant the (international) scrutiny of those who think Finns are weird for putting their babies outside to sleep in the middle of the winter or for putting our babies to bed in cardboard boxes. Click the links, I am sure you’ll learn a few things you might not have ever heard of before. If you’re a regular follower of this blog, then you already know what I am talking about.

Being a mother in an international family also puts me (and all my other cohorts – men and women) in a different light. We struggle with issues of language, schooling, identity and being different. We have to think about the other side of the family that is very far away and ensure that those ties are maintained and strengthened, but that is another story.

Happy Mother’s Day! Hyvää Äitienpäivää! 


7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2014 6:19 pm

    Quite interesting to see facts written in short like this! There are some benefits in the system as you have nicely highlighted but I’d be quite interested to read how available the information is for those who don’t “just know” the system, have you gotten support? Is there something in your home county that would be beneficial for us too? Happy mother’s day to you too! (Ps uusioperhe refers to families where the partners bring kids from earlier relationships to the new one)

    • May 9, 2014 11:11 am

      Thanks for chiming in freebutfun! I think the amount of information available in English on the KELA web site is much better than in the past. My support came from the Mr. (as he is a native Finn) – he translated and read a lot of stuff for me. But my Finnish is good enough these days to understand some of the information that is out there… My home country is Canada and I can’t even tell you what happens there when a woman has a baby, Finland is my only reference.

      What kind of information are you looking for? Maybe I can help. Happy Mother’s Day!

      • May 9, 2014 12:47 pm

        I wasn’t really looking for information as such, just curious on the comparative experiences.

        As Finns we more or less know what is out there, we grow up with the system. But as my partner is not Finnish I just realised how much information I relay to him and have wondered whether he’d get it some other way if his partner would be a foreigner too.
        Or is it also a mother/father thing? That some information is more directed to mothers/ mother’s search for the options more? We are suppose to be relatively equal in Finland, but still I wonder… so just curious on another perspective on this matters!

        And then sometimes I feel like we here think that we do it “sooooo well” but after living in other countries I can only say that all countries do some things really well, that different ways ca lead to great results, and that we could all benefit from learning from others. E.g. The New Zealand plunket ( does a great job, and I also like the way you in NZ can choose a midwife that you can get prepared with and who will then be on call for your labour too.

        Anyway, great though provoking post for Mother’s Day!

  2. cblindsay permalink
    May 8, 2014 11:25 pm

    Reblogged this on Becoming Moominmamma.

  3. May 11, 2014 12:38 pm

    Interesting stuff! I’m a new mom in Finland AND I recently moved here from Canada! So I did 2/3 of my pregnancy in Canada and the last (most important bit!) in Finland. It’s been difficult mostly because of the language barrier (especially with getting documents in the mail) and just the challenge of figuring out a new city and a new way of doing things (but that’s not necessarily a Finland thing); otherwise, the doctors and nurses have been more than amazing. I don’t know how the birth and hospital stay would have been in Canada, but my experiences with doctors and lab tests prior to this make me say that Finland has been far superior. Which is tough to admit when comparing to Canada!

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