13 ways Helsinki offers people the freedom to be equal

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In Helsinki your basic rights will always be taken care of, leaving you to chase the dreams you’re interested in pursuing.

1. Finland is among the most gender equal countries in the world.

Finland is one of the world's leading countries when it comes to gender equality. It was the first European country to grant women the right to vote in 1906, and Finland saw its first 19 female members of parliament take up posts the following year.

And Finland hasn’t stopped advocating for gender parity since then. In 2020 Finland ranked third in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, an index which benchmarks 153 countries according to their progress towards gender parity. The ranking scores countries according to four categories: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

2. Employment rates for men and women are roughly similar here.

Men and women are almost equally represented in the Finnish labour market. In 2019 the employment rate was 73.3% for men and 71.8% for women.

3. It’s a country in which wanting to advance your career is compatible with having children.

In Finland it’s common for men and women to work even though they have children. This is partially thanks to the availability of good-quality, affordable childcare as well as policies that distribute family leave evenly between parents. Finnish children are also given free school lunches, which means that parents don’t have to be stuck at home cooking for their kids during the daytime.  

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4. In Finland, you have the right to stay home from work whenever your child is sick.

If your child is under the age of 10 and falls sick, you can take up to four days of paid leave from work.

5. Gender discrimination is a crime in Finland.

According to Finnish law, everyone is entitled to be treated equally. Discrimination on the basis of gender, including gender expression, is prohibited. This means, for example, that men should not be paid higher salaries than women and that women cannot be let go because they are pregnant. Moreover, any workplace with over 30 employees is required to draw up an equality plan.

6. In fact, Finnish organisations are actively required to promote gender equality in the workplace.

The Equality Act obligates all organisations to promote gender equality in a targeted and systematic manner, known as gender mainstreaming. In practise this means that every administrative unit must view the promotion of gender equality as one of its primary tasks. To this end, all Finnish ministries employ an active gender equality working group and produce annual reports on budgeting with regard to gender.

7. And Finland’s Non-Discrimination Act prohibits other forms of discrimination, too.

Finland’s Non-Discrimination Act also prohibits discrimination based on age, nationality, religion, political beliefs, health, disability, and sexual orientation. It mandates that no one should be treated less favourably as a result of prejudice.

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8. In Finland, employers are required to make their workplaces accessible.

According to the Non-Discrimination Act, employers must optimise work conditions to account for people with disabilities, for example by making working environments more accessible.

9. Inequality is low among children, too.

According to UNICEF’s 2016 Fairness for Children report, Finland is the country with the second-lowest inequality among children. The study accounts for child wellbeing in 41 rich countries belonging to the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

10. The City of Helsinki is actively committed to promoting equality.

Citizens are encouraged to play an active role in decision-making on a city level through schemes including the Elderly Citizens Council, the Council on Disability, the Gender Equality Commission, and the Non-Discrimination Commission.

While the Elderly Citizens Council ensures that the city’s elderly population has the chance to have a say in the planning, preparation, and monitoring of the city’s services, the Council on Disability allows people with disabilities to participate and exert influence. This Council has been functional since it was founded in 1982 and has focussed on issues pertaining to the wellbeing, health, inclusion, housing, and mobility of people with disabilities.

Meanwhile, the Gender Equality Commission tackles issues concerning gender equality in Helsinki and the Non-Discrimination Commission seeks to further non-discrimination and equal treatment.

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11. Helsinki is home to all sorts of inspirational women. Just look at former President Tarja Halonen.

Tarja Halonen was the President of Finland from 2000-2012. An extremely popular President, she was widely respected for her progress on human rights issues. Halonen even served as the chairperson of the Finnish LGBT+ rights organization SETA in the 1980s.

12. And what about Prime Minister Sanna Marin?

In 2019, 34-year-old Social Democrat Sanna Marin became Finland’s Prime Minister, heading a coalition and a cabinet dominated by women. She became the youngest serving Prime Minister in the world, heading a coalition of four other parties that were all led by women.

Raised by a working class mother and her same-sex partner, Marin has spoken openly about how she is a living example of the benefits of the Finnish welfare state, including its generous parental leave policies and free public schools.

13. Helsinki allows you to live your best life, without holding you back.

In Helsinki your basic rights will always be taken care of, leaving you to chase the dreams you’re interested in pursuing.

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In Helsinki your basic rights will always be taken care of, leaving you to chase the dreams you’re interested in pursuing.