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Survey: Majority of MPs want well-to-do to keep child benefit

Most parliamentarians say well-off families should continue receiving Finland's universal child benefit, according to a new Yle survey.

Anonyymi lapsi Nihtisillan vastaanottokeskuksen leikkihuoneessa.
Kela pays a monthly child benefit for all children permanently resident in Finland from birth to age 17. Image: Matti Myller / Yle
Yle News

Most legislators responding to an Yle survey about Finland's child benefit system said they didn't see a reason to change it. Finns Party MPs were, however, the most inclined to make the universal benefit means-tested.

Finance Minister and Finns Party leader Riikka Purra recently floated the idea of reducing monthly child benefits for high-income earners as a way to cut state expenses.

Purra's proposal did not generate much enthusiasm among government parties other than her own. The Yle poll shows several Finns Party MPs saying they could consider reducing child benefits for high-income earners.

A total of 110 out of 200 members of parliament responded to Yle's survey on child benefits. Eighty-two MPs said they want to maintain the current system which grants the benefit to all families, regardless of income.

Many of the lawmakers responding to Yle emphasised child benefits as tying into family-friendly values.

"In a welfare society, every family should have the right to child benefits, regardless of income level," Maria Ohisalo (Greens) said in the survey.

Centre Party MP Jouni Ovaska noted that "free education, child benefits and maternity packages are for all families."

Eliminate or reduce

A total of 17 MPs, including nine from the Finns Party, on the other hand, were of the opinion that high-income earners can do without child benefits, arguing that the move would save money.

"To balance public finances, we will probably need new cost-saving measures," Jaana Strandman (Finns) said in the survey.

Laura Huhtasaari, Sheikki Laakso, Minna Reijonen and Ritva "Kike" Elomaa were among the Finns Party MPs looking to review child benefit policies. Finns Party leader Purra did not respond to Yle's questionnaire.

A handful of National Coalition Party, Social Democratic and Centre Party MPs also said they would be willing to eliminate or reduce child benefits for higher income groups.

"In light of the economic situation, there is reason to discuss how high-income earners can pitch in," Karoliina Partanen (NCP) said in a comment to Yle.

Yle's survey did not define thresholds for "high-income" earners.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) interprets high earners as those with twice the median level of disposable income. The Finnish Business and Policy Forum (Eva), a think tank, in 2016 pegged it around 6,400 euros per month, which comes to around 4,000 euros after taxes. Approximately six percent of Finns belonged to this group at that time.

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