Quotas can also encourage immigrant fathers to take family leave

It is more common for immigrant fathers to take family leave in Sweden than in Finland, which can be partly attributed to the differences between the systems of family leave in the two countries. Immigrant families in Finland are also more likely than the native population to enrol siblings over the age of three in early childhood education, which likely reflects their desire to promote their children’s integration, shows a doctoral dissertation to be examined at the University of Helsinki.

The new doctoral dissertation examines the child care choices of immigrant families in Finland and Sweden using extensive register data. The dissertation indicates that details of the family leave system can also influence the sharing of family leave in immigrant families.

“For example, earmarking family leave for fathers also appears to encourage immigrant fathers to take such leave. However, learned gender norms also seem to affect fathers’ decisions on taking family leave. This is our conclusion based on the family leave taken by fathers who moved from Finland to Sweden or vice versa at different ages,” says Jussi Tervola, MSSc.

Fathers with a Finnish background who moved to Sweden at a later age seem to take family leave less frequently than those who moved at a younger age. On the other hand, fathers who moved from Sweden to Finland at a later age take family leave more often than those who moved when younger.

“This is also the case when the families’ financial situation and duration of residence are taken into account,” Tervola states.

Immigrant families keep children at home longer than the native population

Previous international studies have shown that children from immigrant backgrounds are less frequently enrolled in early childhood education, although they would benefit the most from it, for example in terms of learning outcomes.

“Immigrant families are more likely to keep their children at home longer than the native population also in Finland. In addition, immigrants with a refugee background stay the longest at home with their children although they are the ones who are most at need for support in integration,” Tervola points out.

Situation the opposite for children aged over three

Tervola’s research showed that immigrant families are more likely than the native population to enrol children over the age of three in early childhood education. This conclusion is based on statistics on the sibling supplement of the home care allowance, which is paid for siblings over the age of three who are not enrolled in early childhood education.

“The most likely explanation is that immigrant families are aware of the benefits of early childhood education for children. The guidance issued by municipal early childhood education officials may also contribute, although the largest municipalities certainly have no generally agreed practices,” Tervola says.


Child care choices of immigrant families differ for many reasons

The child care choices of immigrant families have many elements and dimensions that differ from those of families in the native population.

Immigrant families may have different behavioural norms relating to gender and child care.

“Their status as representatives of a minority culture and language may influence their desire to ensure that their children learn that culture and language, but also that their children learn the language and culture of the majority.”

Immigrants on average have a weaker status on the job market, which also affects their child care choices.

“But it is important to emphasise that immigrants are a highly diverse category and differences between immigrant groups are considerable,” Tervola notes.



Jussi Tervola, MSSc, will defend his doctoral dissertation entitled Supporting gender equality and integration – Immigrant families’ child care choices in the Nordic policy context in a public examination on 13 April 2018 at 12.00 at the University of Helsinki Faculty of Social Sciences. The public examination will be held in room 13 of the University’s Main Building (address: Fabianinkatu 33).

The opponent will be Mia Hakovirta, Academy Research Fellow, Docent, University of Turku. The custos will be Professor Heikki Hiilamo, University of Helsinki.

The dissertation will be published in Kela’s series Studies in social security and health. Copies of the dissertation can be purchased from Kela. To order a copy, please see https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/2260.

The dissertation is also available in electronic form through the E-thesis service: https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/2269.

Contact details of the doctoral candidate:

Jussi Tervola

Phone +358 50 570 2218