Being a mother isn’t an easy job, no matter where you’re doing it. But in Finland, which ensures a high quality of life for mothers and their newborns, it’s easier than most everywhere else.
Finland was recently ranked number one on Save The Children’s 14th Annual Mothers Index, which is a part of their broader 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report. The index rates countries on five key indicators of motherhood: maternal health, children’s well-being, educational status, economic status, and political status. While Finland didn’t place first in any of the individual metrics, it was the only of the top ten countries (besides the Netherlands) that placed among the top 12 in each list.
Finland’s Nordic neighbors stood beside it at the top of the rankings, with Sweden and Norway taking second and third, respectively, and the Netherlands and Denmark at fifth and sixth. The United States ranked 30th on the list of 176 countries – behind all of Western Europe. The Democratic Republic of the Congo came in last place.
Finland earned its high rank thanks to across-the-board government support for mothers. Mothers and their kids are largely healthy: the lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 12,200, and only 1 in 344 children will die before their fifth birthday. By contrast, in the U.S. maternal death risk is 1 in 2,400, and 1 in 133 children will die before their fifth birthday.
But it doesn’t stop there. The strong Finnish education system (which we have outlined before) ensures mothers are well-educated, and both per-capita income and political involvement of women in Finland are high compared to many other nations. While the U.S. federal government is only 18% female, Finland has 42.5% female participation, and the two nations’ average incomes are basically the same. Finnish parent also benefit from universal paid family leave. This year, a new dad in Finland can take nearly 8 weeks of paid paternity leave, while new moms have than 15 weeks. The U.S. is one of just two countries that does not guarantee paid parental leave.
While Finland certainly has policies that benefit parents, it should be no surprise that children, too, benefit from happy and healthy moms. Finland’s education system is consistently ranked among the best in the world, and its students come out well-prepared to take on the world. While instruction and education funding are obviously important, Finland is clearly doing a lot more than classroom reforms in order to make their system the best in the world.
By EOI Intern Bill Dow
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