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Kela mulls exports of newborn starter kits

Finland’s social security organisation Kela is looking into the possibility of selling its popular newborn starter kits as an export product. A BBC story on the decades-long Finnish tradition of providing mothers with the maternity kits has sparked global interest in the handy gift boxes.

Äitiyspakkaus on värikäs pahvilaatikko. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Back in the 1930s Finnish authorities introduced a maternity grant on the back of concerns over declining birth rates and high infant mortality. Nowadays most expectant mothers opt for the maternity package rather than the 140-euro cash benefit, as many believe that the package is worth far more than the cash grant.

The newborn starter kit has become a much-appreciated article and an important symbol of Finland’s egalitarian society.

“Of course there are huge expenses when your first child comes. And it has good, high-quality products that will give the child a good start in life,” declared Kosti Takala of Lohja.

A symbol of the Finnish brand

The maternity package received global exposure following a BBC online report on the history of the social benefit. Further interest was fanned when it was widely reported that the Finnish government through Kela had bestowed a starter kit on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and had also similarly gifted the Swedish royal couple Victoria and Daniel as they awaited the birth of their daughter Estelle.

“They shone a light on the Finnish brand, that we have this kind of socio-political token for all families with children,” said Kela director-General Liisa Hyssälä.

Kela now wants to ride the wave of global interest to make the maternity packs Finland’s latest export product. However existing legislation prevents Kela from selling the kits abroad. In principle though, nothing prevents anyone else from putting together a similar package to sell.

Anne Jääskeläinen, a Finn resident in London says she would gladly distribute the starter kits in her adopted homeland.

“There is great inequality here. So when I heard that there is a project inspired by the Finnish maternity packs to create such a kit for the poor, then I thought Finland could be a part of it,” she added.

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