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Annika Saarikko (Centre) was pictured speaking to reporters after being sworn into office as the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services on 10 July, 2017.
Annika Saarikko (Centre) was pictured speaking to reporters after being sworn into office as the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services on 10 July, 2017.

 

Annika Saarikko (Centre), the Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services, has revealed that she is ready to begin discussions on overhauling the family leave system in the government budget session in August.

The final obstacle to launching the discussions was seemingly cleared earlier this week.

Simon Elo, the chairperson of the New Alternative Parliamentary Group, on Tuesday tweeted that the parliamentary group is ready to begin the discussions on the condition that the eligibility period for child home care allowance is not shortened. “The child home care allowance period mustn’t be shortened, but otherwise we’re ready to discuss the family leave reform,” he announced.

“That sounds very good,” Saarikko commented to Uusi Suomi. “I hope and expect that this won’t be a cost-cutting project for the government, but that the state genuinely wants to invest in families with small children.”

The Finnish government decided not to pursue the family leave reform as recently as in its mid-term session in April. The reform was opposed especially by the now ex-chairperson of the Finns Party, Timo Soini (NA), who accused those calling for changes to child home care allowances of disliking housewives.

The New Alternative Parliamentary Group’s demand that the eligibility period not be reduced is not expected to put off the two other ruling parties, the Centre and the National Coalition. The Centre, for example, proposed late last year that the allowance be scaled down with the duration of benefit receipt while not changing the eligibility period.

Saarikko is confident that an agreement can now be found.

“We can easily find common ground on the issue because child home care allowance has been the part of the family leave system that has been considered important for families’ freedom of choice by the Centre,” she tells, reminding that nine out of ten families have received the allowance at some point in time.

She underscores that any discussions on the reform should not focus solely on either child home care allowance or how many months of parental leave each parent is entitled to.

“This is about a bigger social effort to find a balance between family and working life,” she argues.

Saarikko also reminds that family leave reform falls within the purview of several cabinet members. Issues related to child home care allowance fall within the purview of Saarikko, those related to earnings-related family benefits within the purview of Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila (NA), and those related to early-childhood education within the purview of Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen (NCP).

The Centre Party, she adds, believes the reform should be approached as a whole to ensure the new family leave system is sufficiently simple and predictable to support all kinds of families.

“There are families with a single parent, families with business-owner parents, families with more than one address, families with multiple children. There’s a wide variety of families and the system should apply to all circumstances. Strengthening the position of fathers is an important goal for me personally,” says Saarikko.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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