Child Welfare Programs in Finland

I write often about the fact that the Nordic countries have the lowest child poverty rates in the developed world. I also like to point out that they accomplish this not through any special market magic or particularly novel household formation norms, but rather through child welfare programs, all of which we could replicate here if we wanted. It occurs to me that, though it would be helpful to many, I've never bothered to list these programs together in one place. So I try to do that here.

In additition to free health care and free schooling (which comes with free lunch and a free snack if you do extra-curricular activites), here is what Finland offered families with children in 2010 (note that, currently, 1 EUR = 1.19 USD):

  • Maternity Allowance. For mothers having children. There are two phases. The first phase lasts 105 calendar days (excepting Sundays). It pays 90% of earnings up to EUR 50,606 plus 32.5% of earnings above that. The second phase lasts 49 days. It pays 70% of earnings up to EUR 32,892 plus 40% of earnings between EUR 32,893 and EUR 50,606 plus 25% of earnings above that. Minimum benefit is EUR 22.04/day.
  • Special Maternity Allowance. Paid to mothers who work jobs that are incompatible with pregnancy. The benefit is being able to take maternity leave earlier during pregnancy than normal and also thereby receive more total maternity leave. It pays the same as the first phase of the Maternity Allowance.
  • Paternity Allowance. For new fathers. Up to 30 days. It pays the same as the first phase of the Maternity Allowance.
  • Birth Grant. This is the famed Finnish Baby Box, full of baby clothes and other things (see here). It goes to mothers having children. Mothers may also request EUR 140 instead of the box.
  • Parental Allowance. Paid to parents immediately after Maternity/Paternity Allowance ends. It lasts for 158 days (excepting Sundays) and longer for multiple births. For the first 30 weekdays, it pays the same as the first phase of the Maternity Allowance. For the remainder, it pays the same as the second phase of the Maternity Allowance. Minimum benefit is EUR 22.04/day.
  • Child Benefit. For parents of children. EUR 100/month for first child. EUR 110.5/month for second child. EUR 141/month for third child. EUR 161.5/month for fourth child. EUR 182/month for every subsequent child. Single parents receive an additional EUR 46.60/month per child.
  • Parenthood Allowance. For parents of children under age 3. Minimum benefit is EUR 15.20/day.
  • Private Child Care Allowance. For parents who arrange private child care rather than public day care. Minimum benefit is EUR 160/month per child. There is also a means-tested supplement benefit that goes as high as EUR 134.55/month per child.
  • Child Home Care Allowance. For parents of children under age 3 that care for their child at home rather than using public day care. Minimum benefit is EUR 314.28/month. If the child has a sibling also under 3, there is a EUR 94.09/month supplement. If the sibling is between 3 and 6, there is a EUR 60.46/month supplement. There is also a means-tested supplement that goes as high as EUR 168.19/month.
  • Partial Child Care Allowance. For parents of children under 3 or who are in their first two years of schooling who reduce work hours to 30 hours a week to care for their child. Benefit is EUR 90/month per child. 
  • Maintenance Allowance. For single parent who is not receiving child support payments from the other parent (written on this before as easy improvement in US). Paid EUR 139.54/month per child.
  • Temporary Care Leave. For parents of children under age 10 who suddenly fall ill. Maximum leave is 4 days. Benefit is equal to sickness benefits, which are earnings-related.
  • Child Care Disability Allowance. For parents of children with severe disabilities or chronic illnesses. Paid EUR 85.59/month, EUR 199.71/month, or EUR 387.26/month depending on severity of child's disabilities.
  • Special Care Allowance. For parents who must take leave from work to care for a child under the age of 16 who is seriously ill or disabled. Minimum benefit is EUR 336.41/month.

To the extent that you count paying for college as a cost of parenting (I don't), college tuition is also free and there are allowances given to college students to cover some of their living expenses.

There is a lot going on in the Finnish welfare state. There is the usual old age stuff, unemployment stuff, disability stuff, general assistance like what we used to call "welfare" here, national health care, and so on. But we also have versions of most of those things here, even if they are kind of crap in comparison. What really differs about the scope of Finland's welfare state (and the Nordic welfare state more generally) is the extent to which it takes seriously the idea that adequately caring for children is something that deserves major social insurance attention.

It's no surprise then why their child poverty rates are so low. It is their policy to make them that way.