Government parties disagree on parental leave reform
The views of the government parties on how to renew the parental leave or family leave system are currently far apart.
The Swedish People’s Party and the Green League are both calling for a thorough reform of the present system, insisting that a large part of the time off should be allocated to fathers only. Some Centre Party MPs are also in favour of a paternal quota.
However, the National Coalition Party is opposed to such quotas. The party would prefer a system that would raise the amount of parental allowances closer to the family’s normal income.
At present, Minister of Social Affairs and Health Liisa Hyssälä (Centre) is setting up a committee to look into the planned reform.
”The present system is too convoluted. The leaves have many names and people do not know how the benefits could affect their financial situation. The model has to be clarified”, Hyssälä noted.
In Hyssälä’s view, too big a financial burden is today imposed on companies with predominantly female workforce.
”If we wish to promote gender equality, fathers will have to be persuaded to use their right to a parental leave”, Hyssälä demands.
Minister for Gender Equality Stefan Wallin (Swedish People's Party) has proposed that the so-called 6+6+6 system developed by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (STAKES) should be tried and tested.
According to the proposed system, both the father and mother of a newborn child should be granted six months of leave, and another six months should be given for the mother and father to divide between themselves as they see fit.
Minister Hyssälä has promised that all alternatives will be examined.
The 6+6+6 model has been created by special researcher Johanna Lammi-Taskula, who says that fathers typically use those leaves which have been allocated to them and which families would lose unless the fathers avail themselves of their right to the benefit.
”The father’s quota of the parental leave does not decrease the mother’s leave, as mothers can also be granted extended parental leave if they so wish”, notes Lammi-Taskula.
Anni Sinnemäki, the chair of the Green parliamentary group, suggests a slightly shorter 5+5+5 system.
”In many ways, Finland is a housewife society. The system must not encourage particularly women to stay at home”, Sinnemäki argues.
State Secretary Ilkka Oksala, who reports to Minister of Health and Social Services Paula Risikko (National Coalition), does not regard the proposed compulsory division of family leaves as a good thing.
The best incentive for fathers to avail themselves of their right to a child care leave would be to raise the level of maternity, paternity, and parental allowances in order that they would equal the income lost during the leave, argues Oksala.
The National Coalition Party would cover the costs caused by the higher level of parental allowances by increasing the fees to be paid by both employers and employees.
It has been proposed that the quota system should be funded through an arrangement according to which all employers and employees should transfer part of their earnings to a special fund.
Globally, the introduction of the 6+6+6 model would place Finland in a top position in terms of the duration of parental leave.
According to Lammi-Taskula, the reform would be beneficial to children.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Half of fathers in corporate management positions skip parental leave (16.10.2007)
Ministry of Justice looking into changes on rules for ministers´ parental leave (5.10.2007)
National Institute for Health and Welfare
Finnish Families (Virtual Finland)
The Social Insurance Institution of Finland