Skip to content

American praise for Finnish model

The Atlantic magazine credits women with helping to secure the early foundations of wellbeing in Finland.

Image: Nuorten ääni -toimitus

According to a recent article in the US magazine The Atlantic (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Finnish women are responsible for much of today’s success in work-life balance and equality, as they were active in the decision-making process early on.

“It’s hard not to get jealous when I talk to my extended family,” writes Olga Khazan, an Atlantic editor whose relatives live in Finland. In her 8-page article, Kazan compares her life in the US with life in the country of a thousand lakes that is “home to saunas, quirky metal bands, and people who have for decades opted for equality and security over keeping more of their paycheques."

On the list of accolades: Finnish schools, daycare, parental leave, and unemployment benefits.

According to Kazan's research, Finland is one of the most generous and successful of the welfare states. Finland has lower infant mortality, better school ratings and much lower poverty rates than the United States - and Finland is the world's second happiest country (2012 OECD report).

The article explains, among other things, maternity packages (a BBC article about the so-called baby boxes recently went viral) and the Finnish comprehensive school system, which many consider the world's best - despite the fact that Finnish pupils spend less time in classrooms than their other Western counterparts.

An important factors is that in Finland there is much less emphasis on competition - in the classroom and in the workplace.

Reality check

The article keeps it real by pointing out that things have not always been so good in Finland.

In the early 1900s, Finland was an underdeveloped agricultural country that was much poorer than its neighbours. One of its early advantages was an enlightened attitude towards gender equality.

Finland was the world's second country to give women the right to vote, and among the first to elect women to parliament. According to experts,  because women were involved in shaping modern Finland, children and maternity benefits were part of the structures that formed the foundations of the welfare state.

The Atlantic compares the Finnish way of life with the American one. Finns live in smaller homes than Americans, taxation rates are higher and salaries are lower. However, the lower level of wages of doctors, for example, allows healthcare costs to remain at a moderate level.

The article also points out that Finland is not a wonderland of the economy: economic growth is slow and the challenges of an aging population need to be dealt with in the coming years. In addition, government debt relative to gross domestic product will soon exceed the EU's 60 per cent.

Read the original Atlantic story online

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia