A man pushing a pram is an ordinary sight on Helsinki streets. Fathers take an active role in raising children. It is common that parents pursue ambitious careers and also emphasise good everyday life with their family.
Most women and men of the working age bracket work actively. In this sense, Finland is the second most gender equal country in the EU region. The employment rate of mothers is 77 percent. This present-day situation has roots in history – Finnish women have always worked a lot, and there was never a strong culture of stay-at-home mothers.
Helsinkians do not tend to stay at the office until the evening hours. Nobody would normally presume that someone would stay at work past five o'clock. Working days are usually 7.5 hours long, and in addition to free weekends there are many bank holidays in the calendar. Finns tend to have five weeks of paid vacation a year, and some have two weeks more according to their collective labour agreements.
This is the same Helsinki that ranks fourth among rising start-up ecosystems and has been named the most innovative region in the EU. The same city that is home to Supercell, Nokia, Rovio, Wolt, Smartly, Futurice, F-Secure and Varjo, to name a few. The same Helsinki that is investing in the Maria 01 and expanding it to become Europe’s largest startup campus, home to 650 new operators and jobs for at least 4,000 people.
The rate of employment in Helsinki is 74.5 percent. The growth of employment has also been good in Helsinki. Especially the fields of occupational activities, science and technology have seen a surge in job creation. A lot of new jobs in IT and communication were born in 2018, and at the moment the field has surpassed the employment growth in the commercial sector.
Finland's working age population is highly educated. 52 percent of Helsinkians aged 25-64 years old have completed higher education. The same figure is 38 percent outside the capital region.
Schools and kindergartens around the corner
One special feature that sets Finland apart from other countries is that children have a right to enjoy full daycare. Everyone’s right to daycare ensures access to early childhood education for every child.
In addition to daycare, society also offers many other services that are accessible to all families regardless of their income level. Children can attend pre-primary education before they start school where learning is supported through playing.
During the first two school years, children can also take part in morning and afternoon activities. Child health centres, parenting guidance and other children's wellbeing services also serve to support the whole family.
In Finland most children attend daycare centres and schools in close vicinity to where they live because parents find that the level of education is equal everywhere. Pre-primary education is available in Helsinki in both municipal and private daycare centres. Finns do not tend to make a great separation between paid private schools and free public schools and parents like to send their children to the nearest school. Around 81 percent of Helsinki primary school students study in public schools.
According to Expat Insider’s global survey, Finland is the best country in the world for family life abroad. Finland ranks at the top in family well-being as well as options, quality and affordability of childcare and education. 93 percent of expats are satisfied with their family life in Finland compared to the global average of percent.
Balance between work and family life
Helsinki, Finland is the second best place for work–life balance when comparing data on work intensity, institutional support, legislation, and livability. The Kisi Work-Life Balance Index measures 20 factors determining the work-life balance of 40 cities worldwide. The same result shows in a study conducted by the relocation company Movinga, according to which Helsinki is the best place in the world to combine work and family life. The criteria emphasised paid parental leave, high level education, healthcare, employment and affordable living costs.
In a study by Statistics Finland, Finnish parents feel that it is possible to combine work and family fairly well, and very well according to a third of the respondents. Especially highly educated parents felt that they have good opportunities to influence their working hours and to seek flexibility in them if their family situation so demands. Perhaps this is one reason why mothers tend to return back to work quickly if they have a job waiting after their parental leave.
Finding a balance between work and family life is made easier by the legal requirement of workplaces to have equality plans to ensure the equal treatment of employees, monitored by the Ombudsman for Equality. An employer cannot lay off a pregnant employee.
Even parents in high-ranking positions do not need to choose between a career and family. A good example of this is that Prime Minister Sanna Marin returned to work after a seven-month nursing leave after which her partner stayed home to take care of the child.
Helsinki wants to be the world's most functional city
Helsinki has been planned in a way that everyday life is as easy as possible for its citizens. Helsinkians appreciate the fact that many amenities are within walking distance, and the city is brimming with cultural activities and gorgeous spots in nature. The seashore is always near, and national parks are within easy reach. One third of the city's area is nature. Significant natural areas are found within a 15-minute radius in all parts of the city, and there is never more than 300 metres away. You don't necessarily need your own car as public transport works well and is an affordable way of navigating the capital region and areas beyond it. Smooth mobility also helps balance family life and work.
There is however an ongoing wish to improve the wellbeing and equality of families. Helsinki's vision is to be the world's most functional city. There is an aim to do everything a little bit better to make life more enjoyable and effortless for Helsinkians. Functionality is built on equality and a strong sensation of togetherness.