Piia Siljander, a 28 year-old studying to become a confectioner, is a single mother of three children, the oldest of which is five. This single-parent family has lived off public income support payments for the past two years.
"Daycare is of course a help during the day. In the evenings when I'm studying, my mother helps out as she can," explains Siljander.
After covering housing costs, this family of four has around 1,200 euros a month in disposable income. Once the cost of everyday essentials is subtracted, only a couple of hundred is left.
"One can live without extra frills, but it would be wonderful sometime to be able to go to the amusement park. Right now, that's not possible."
"Income supports insufficient"
One-in-four single-parent families in Finland currently live in relative poverty, meaning that their incomes are less than 60% of the national average. Fifteen years ago, fewer than one-tenth of single-parent families were in that position.
"After a while, living on relief gradually gets on your nerves. You have to go into debt all the time to feed your children. Income supports are insufficient when you have to buy winter shoes and snowsuits and gloves for three children," points out Piia Siljander.
Siljander has taken on almost 10,000 euros in study loans and other debt.
All parents get monthly child benefits for dependent children under the age of 17. Since 1994, the amount provided in child benefits has been subtracted from any income supports a family receives. Piia Siljander considers this unfair.
"Every family gets paid child benefits. It just seems very crazy that the families with the smallest incomes, those that really need the child benefits, get them taken away," she says.
This spring, Siljander should finish her studies and be certified as a professional confectioner. She prefers to be optimistic about the future.
"Nothing will ever come of moaning and complaining. One must try to trust that things will turn out for the best."