Skip to content

Some day care centres open on Midsummer as Finland's work schedules expand

As many businesses are open around the clock the need for child care during weekends and holidays has increased.

Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

While most Finns are making last-minute Midsummer preparations, two-year-old Anni Humalajoki will head to kindergarten on Friday morning, Midsummer Eve.

Her mother, a practical nurse, has a morning shift and her truck driving father doesn't get the day off, either. Anni’s mother, Oili Humalajoki, is pleased that the city of Kuopio offers day care services on the holiday.

“There is not necessarily help available from relatives, and it’s not their job anyway,” Humalajoki says.

In addition to Kuopio, many other cities have seen an increase in the need for child care services over Midsummer. For example, in the eastern Finnish town of Iisalmi, 22 children will require care over the holiday weekend, a huge increase from last year, when only one child's famliy needed their services.

Meanwhile in Turku last year, the need for day care services on Saturdays, evenings or nights grew by 30 percent, according to Maija-Liisa Rantanen from the city's administration department.

"We have one kindergarten in the city center, which is open around the clock every day of the year. They've felt a lot of pressure recently," Rantanen says.

24/7 society

One reason for the extended day care services lie in Finland's relativley recent deregulation of laws governing opening hours. A government vote slashed long-standing laws about when businesses were permitted to open - and close - at the beginning of 2016.

“Shops can [now] be open around the clock and on holidays,” says Anitta Pakanen from the Kindergarten Teachers Union.

“Also, workforce policy, higher employment and the drive to get mothers back to work have had an effect on day care needs,” she adds.

Mirja Lyytinen from Malminranta day care centre in Iisalmi believes there are other reasons for the growth too, including a cultural change. The boundary between ordinary weekdays and holidays has become more vague, Lyytinen says.

“Christmas or Midsummer does not play a big role for some parents and they may be happy to work on holidays due to the extra pay,” Lyytinen says.

Then again, it’s not always the parents’ choice to work on holidays.

“Some parents do odd jobs or are temporarily employed and may not have any, or just very little, vacation in the summer,” Lyytinen adds.

Higher expenses

A surge in the need for care has led to higher costs within early childhood education. To organise care during the evenings or weekends costs twice or three times as much as ordinary day care, says Jarkko Lahtinen from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

More staff is required and they get paid more, Lahtinen says.

“Holidays can be quite challenging for kindergartens. Even though there may only be a handful of children present, they come at different times, meaning many members of staff must come to work.”

According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare, 15,000 children required care during extraordinary hours in 2016, which amounts to seven percent of all children in early childhood education in Finland. The number has grown by 580 children since 2013.

One might ask whether we need to have services available to us 24/7, Humalajoki says.

“But society changes and it’s good that day care services can adjust.”