The clear majority of municipalities in the Uusimaa region, which includes Helsinki, have decided to give pay raises to their daycare teachers in 2019, an informal Yle survey has found.
"As far as I know, there haven't been pay increases in other parts of Finland. Of course, there might have been some in individual municipalities, but it looks as if they have been concentrated in the Uusimaa region," says researcher Paula Koskinen Sandberg, a central figure in last year's movement to improve the salary levels of the country's daycare teachers.
According to figures from Statistics Finland, the average basic salary of daycare teachers in Finland in 2017 was 2,356 euros per month for men and 2,362 euros per month for women.
The pay increases in the capital Helsinki and surrounding municipalities will bring salary levels in this area up to between 2,431 and 2,634 euros per month.
A good start, but not enough
Timo Mäki, a labour market advisor for the OAJ teachers' union, says that early education teachers and supervisors have long considered their pay too low in light of the demands and responsibilities of their work.
Yle broke a story last spring about how the largest municipalities in the Helsinki area had entered into a "gentleman's agreement" to not pay higher salaries to hire competent daycare teachers, in spite of hundreds of vacancies and a severe shortage of skilled professionals in the field.
The local governments later denied the deal, but not before OAJ called them out for "cartel-like" and "illegal" behaviour.
Salary levels may have improved this year in the largest capital region cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, but the shortage of daycare workers there continues. There are currently 48 permanent or temporary early childhood education vacancies open in Helsinki, 33 in Espoo and 51 in Vantaa.
Daycare teacher and Kerava resident Karoliina Veikkonen says she is happy for the example the southern municipalities are showing the rest of the country, but says the general salary level for her work is still "shameful".
"Salaries slightly increased in Kerava to match those in Vantaa. Compensation levels have been higher in Tuusula for quite some time, and that's why they find it easier to fill open positions there," she says.
Activist vows to continue protests
Veikkonen says she has to count her pennies carefully as a resident of the capital region, where half of her monthly net salary goes towards housing costs.
"The salary level of early childhood education teachers is downright shameful, when you consider the amount of schooling we have and the demands of our work. I've thought of moving and switching jobs because of the pay, but it isn't realistic because of my social support network," she says.
Koskinen Sandberg vows to continue the "Ei leikkirahaa" (No play money) group protests until there is lasting change.
"We're happy about the pay increases in Uusimaa, but elsewhere they've been few and far between. Salary levels in the early education field are so low that even the improvements that we have seen are pretty modest. We need more," she says.