The panel discussion sets out to explore and debate the interpretations and implications of these claims. The discussion will feature a diverse multi-disciplinary group of experts and will aim to provide a clear explanation of the research findings and explore their broader policy implications.
The panel will feature a diverse set of experts: Tuomas Kosonen (VATT), Maiju Paananen (Faculty of Education and Culture, Tampere University), Elina Pekkarinen (Ombudsman for Children in Finland), Essi Rentola (Ministry of Social Affairs and Health) and Aino Saarinen (Psychology, University of Helsinki). The event will be in English. The event is open to everyone interested in learning more about home care allowance and its effects on society – and about the dynamics of interdisciplinary debate. It will also be streamed online and recorded for later viewing.
The world looks up to Finland not only because it consistently ranks at the top of happiness rankings but also because it is considered one of best countries to be a parent. As the world sees it, Finland's institutional structure supports the parents in several ways, takes good care of the less well-off, and aims at giving an equal start to every child regardless of their background. The child home care allowance, which is paid to parents with a child under 3 years of age who is not in day care, is commonly thought of as a part of this institutional structure. Home care allowance gives parents the option to take care of their newborn at home instead of sending their child to day care at an early age.
Recently, the benefits of home care allowance have been called into question. In 2021, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment published a report by a working group of researchers on employment. It proposed abolishing the home care allowance, based on the finding that it negatively affects women's participation in the workforce. A recent working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research argues that home care allowance has negative consequences both for mothers and children. Particularly, the paper argues that it "decreases maternal employment" and "negatively affects the early childhood cognitive test results of children, decreases the likelihood of choosing academic high school, and increases youth crimes."
The paper, authored by Jonathan Gruber, Tuomas Kosonen, and Kristiina Huttunen, concludes that "promoting home care in Finland was harmful to both mothers and children."
Many Finns value the home care allowance policy as a way of supporting families and giving children an equal start in life. Economics research appears to challenge this positive view of home care allowance. The question is, should Finland abandon this policy based on the findings of this research? Can we rely only on economic expertise when evaluating child care arrangements? Who else should be consulted, why and how?
N. Emrah Aydinonat from University of Helsinki, who is a philosopher of economics, argues that translating the results of economics research is more challenging that it may appear. Moreover, he says, it is often difficult for non-experts to interpret economics research since it involves the use of advanced modelling and data analysis methods. He contents,
"To address issues that are of public concern, such as the home care allowance, it is crucial to present research findings in a transparent and easily understandable manner and to thoroughly examine their policy implications."
Besides clarifying the economic research findings and critically assessing their relevance to policy from multi-disciplinary perspectives, the panel discussion will also consider the ethical and moral dimensions of child care arrangements. Aydinonat, who will moderate the discussion, says that the panel provides us with an opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to the debate on home care allowance.
N. Emrah Aydinonat, ReSES -project leader / firstname.lastname@example.org
Anita Välikangas, project coordinator / email@example.com / +358 50 3534135