From breastfeeding laws to paternity policies, nations around the world differ wildly in their treatment of families – and despite the UK’s generally high standard of living (and companies like My 1st Years providing delightful gifts for newborn babies), we still have a long way to go before even reaching the top 10 best countries to have kids in. The Claridges incident last year highlighted just how squeamish we still are when it comes to just breastfeeding, and the US meanwhile is one of the last countries on earth without a guaranteed maternity leave policy for new mums, leaving many struggling to cope as they juggle full time work with a newborn baby. So where exactly is the best place to raise children?
Save the Children’s annual Mothers Index grades countries based on a selection of factors, and it probably won’t come as a surprise that Nordic countries take the top spots – Finland, Norway and Sweden came in first, second and third last year, followed closely by Iceland, the Netherlands and Denmark. The UK meanwhile is languishing at number 26 – tied with Belarus – whilst the USA is even lower at number 31. So what makes Finland such a great place to parent?
Even the most basic research turns up an astonishing number of perks to living in the land of Nokia and Angry Birds. Mums are given a mandatory four months maternity leave and dads are encouraged to take paternity leave as well; the government has ensured childcare is affordable whatever a parent’s income, and there is a strong emphasis on striking a healthy work/life balance. As such, Finnish parents work on average 1,672 hours a year – almost 100 less than the OECD average of 1,765 – which allows them to spend much more time with their children.
Finland also gives its citizens, regardless of income or background, a bumper box of clothes, nappies, sleepwear and accessories to ensure a stress free start to parenting. The box doubles up as a crib in which the majority of Finnish babies will spend their first few weeks sleeping, eliminating the need to hunt for an expensive model whilst dealing with morning sickness. On top of this they have the lowest rates of stillbirth, and the highest scores in international education tables, making Finland seem like the pinnacle of a parenting nation – so why don’t we adopt their policies here in the UK?
Annoyingly, it might not be as simple as borrowing individual strategies – women have played a key role in shaping Finnish politics since the early 20th century, (they were the first country to give women the vote in 1906), giving the entire country a sense of maternal nurturing of which few others can boast. Their welfare system is also one of the most successful in the world, allowing them to fund free childcare and provide maternity boxes to all of its families – handouts which would undoubtedly meet resistance in Old Blighty. For now, we can simply gaze in envy across the North Sea – and look forward to the launch of their maternity boxes when they become available to buy this year. For now, our gift sets are the next best thing.
How have your experiences in raising kids in different countries turned out? Let us know in the comments below!