The rural community of Miehikkälä in southeastern Finland has upped the stakes in competition for new inhabitants by offering parents 10,000 euros for each child they bring to the world.
At the start of this year, Miehikkälä started to disburse 1,000 euros annually for each new child until they turn ten years – as long as the child and at least one of the parents continue to reside in the village.
Earlier the town, located near the Russian border, tried to attract new inhabitants with a baby bonus of 3,000 euros.
Mayor Arto Ylönen says the smaller bonus has encouraged young people to have children. “I doubt we would have had 10 new kids here each year without the bonus,” he says.
“We didn’t see any reason not to increase the amount if it has an effect on the number of new children,” he adds.
Daycare may become free
Miehikkälä's population — currently at about 2,000 people — has been steadily dropping for the past two decades. One of the three schools in the village will be closed in the spring.
"I would like to double or triple the number of children born here to 20-30 per year," says Ylönen.
“That’s what we once had and that would be a good class size for a village school,” he says.
In addition to the baby bonus, since 2016 Miehikkälä has offered 4,000 euros to first-time home buyers in the town. The mayor’s latest idea to attract more people to the community is the scrapping of daycare fees.
Nina Eistiö who lives in Miehikkälä with her family is particularly excited about those plans.
“That would be great and a real benefit. We would save hundreds of euros every year,” Eistiö, the mother of a one-year-old, says.
Eistiö and her partner received the 3,000 euro bonus when their son Antti was born in 2016.
“We’ve spent some of the money but the rest we saved for his driver’s license.”
She believes Miehikkälä’s increased baby bonus will interest young families who want to move to the countryside. “I hope that we’ll get more children living here.”