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Day care places all taken up in Helsinki - city looking for more premises in many districts
Difficulties in predicting human behaviour
Helsinki’s child day care places have all been taken up. For instance in the northern suburb of Paloheinä there is a waiting list of around 50 children still looking for a place.
The city has promised that by the autumn every child resident in the city will be found a kindergarten place, but for many who have applied it is something of a mystery as yet where the places will come from, or what sort of additional transport problems parents will have in dropping the children off and picking them up.
According to calculations made some five years ago, the number of children requiring daycare services was supposed to decline, but now there has been a shocked admission that numbers have actually gone up, throwing everything into flux.
The City of Helsinki is consequently hurriedly looking to increase the availability of daycare places by renting new premises or building new kindergartens.
However, plans for new buildings do little to alleviate the problems faced by families wondering about what will happen when mother goes back to work.
The suburb of Paloheinä is not the only area where demand has outstripped supply: western districts of the city have also had to put up the “no vacancies” signs, and in Munkkiniemi children have had to be arranged daycare places outside the actual residential area, in Ruskeasuo or Pikku-Huopalahti. Similar overspill arrangements have had to be implemented for Lauttasaari and Tapanila.
For parents working, say, in the new office blocks of Ruoholahti, taking the child to Ruskeasuo involves quite a hike in the wrong direction.
Every year around 5,000 children seek a daycare place in Helsinki in the spring. This year the numbers are estimated to be up by around 200 on the figure for 2007.
To the outside observer, it would appear that the city has to’d and fro’d between shutting down kindergartens and building new ones in recent years.
First there are cutbacks in the number of available places, and then announcements of increases.
The biggest reason behind the apparently illogical behaviour is the intractable problem of guessing at how people will behave - and how the economy will affect their decisions - some five years down the road.
Population forecasts around five years ago suggested that the number of young children in Helsinki would decline and then level off.
This projection was abandoned when it was discovered that the curve was turning up rather than down.
It is not so much that people are breeding more, but exhibiting an unexpectedly strong urge to go to work.
In other words, the city did not anticipate that local residents would be so well employed and that so many of them would be in a position to come off maternity benefits and home care allowances and go into the labour market.
When they did make that decision, the first thing they needed was a daycare place - and suddenly there were not enough to be found.