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PM Sipilä signals revival of parental leave reform

Finland's premier Juha Sipilä posted on Twitter Saturday that the heads of the three government coalition parties will meet on Monday evening to discuss reform of the country's family leave policy.

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Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipilä tweeted on Saturday that the heads of Finland's ruling centre-right coalition parties will meet on Monday evening to review the status of parental leave reform in the government.

A dispute arose Friday between Sipilä's Centre Party and members of the National Coalition Party (NCP) after Centre Party Family Affairs Minister Annika Saarikko announced that negotiations to renew Finland's family leave policy would be put on ice, due to a lack of finances.

Speaking directly after the announcement, NCP Chair Petteri Orpo stated that he was not in agreement that the move should be shelved.

"The National Coalition Party wants to continue in search of a solution to family leave. It is too important of an issue to let fail," Orpo tweeted.

A plan to give dads more leave

Blue Reform chair Sampo Terho, head of the third government coalition party, also expressed his wish on Friday that the negotiations to reform parental leave options in Finland would carry on.

Blue Reform's Social Affairs and Health Care Minister Pirkko Mattila said Saturday morning in an Yle interview that her party would be willing to reintroduce the reform if additional funding can be earmarked to cover the projected expenses.

Blues parliamentary group chair Simon Elo also said on Friday that the party had lobbied to double fathers' share of voluntary parental leave to more than 100 working days, in order to move things in a more gender-equal direction.

Analysis of party motives

Jenni Karimäki, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Parliamentary Research in Finland, says that money squabbles between politicians are always founded in disparate logic connected to different ideologies and values.

She says Saarikko's announcement was meant to speak to the Centre Party base and assure low-income families of their right to make their own independent choices.

"We are firmly headed towards the [2019 parliamentary] elections now. There are certainly other questions besides purely technical or financial difficulties that are influencing things," says Karimäki.

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