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All Points North #32: Money or kids? With Osmo Kontula and Safa Ali

As Finland faces a dwindling birthrate, sociologist Osmo Kontula and mum-of-two Safa Ali discuss if it's just too costly to have kids in Finland.

Audio: All Points North Podcast
Audio
Audio: Yle News

As Finland's birth rate continues to fall, analysts and policy makers are wondering why so many Finnish residents are delaying or opting out of parenthood? APN talked with research professor at the Family Federation of Finland Osmo Kontula and Safa Ali, an engineer and mother of two who moved to Finland from the United States five years ago.

Sociologist Osmo Kontula said that lawmakers drafting parental leave policies are out of tune with young parents in Finland. Families want the current system of up to three years of guaranteed child care leave at partial pay to remain intact. He also spoke of a "cultural evolution" in Finland, whereby young people are increasingly focused on their spare time and hobbies, and not on starting a family.

Safa Ali said that her preconceived notions about Finland melted away in her first years here, when she noticed that young Finnish families she met in children's parks had similar difficulties making ends meet, even with both parents working. Ali said that her inability to find a civil engineering job here has contributed to her decision not to have a third baby, as food, clothing and children's hobbies are prohibitively expensive.

APN also spoke with Heikki Hiilamo, social policy professor, who said if women get more support to combine career and family, it might help boost the country's dwindling birth rate. A stay-at-home dad also weighed in, saying the gig economy makes it unfeasible for him to add another child to his family.

Youth mental health and racism top news

Our news roundup segment started with a popular story on a survey that found that 90,000 children under the age of 13 suffer from mental health issues in Finland. There's been a steady increase in the number of children diagnosed with psychological issues for nearly two decades, and Yle News' podcast from two weeks ago took a closer look at this trend.

A report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights that assessed the experiences of nearly 6,000 people of African descent across 12 EU states also garnered interest. Finland topped the list for perceived racial discrimination and racially-motivated violence, with some 14 percent of the respondents here saying they'd been physically attacked. Almost two-thirds of Finnish residents who responded to the survey said they'd faced racial harassment or threats.

The third most-read Yle News story this week was about the Soldiers of Odin, an anti-immigrant group that patrols streets in Finland. This week some members of the group marched through the Puhos shopping centre in east Helsinki, a location frequented by the local immigrant community, reportedly provoking people with name calling and hand gestures.

If you have any questions, or would like to share something on your mind, just contact us via WhatsApp on +358 44 421 0909, on our Facebook or Twitter account, or at yle.news@yle.fi.

The All Points North podcast is a weekly look at what's going on in Finland. Subscribe via iTunes (and leave a review!), listen on Spotify and Yle Areena or find it on your favourite podcatching app or via our RSS feed.

This week's show was presented by Mark B. Odom and Zena Iovino doubled as our co-host and reporter. Our producer was Pamela Kaskinen and sound technician was Laura Koso.

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