Finland plans to give dads equal parental leave as mothers

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HELSINKI (AP) — Finland's female-dominated government unveiled a plan Wednesday to give both parents the same amount of fully paid parental leave in an effort to push dads in to take time off from work to spend more time with their children.

Social affairs minister Anna-Kaisa Pekonen said paternity leave with full pay in the Nordic country would be extended to nearly seven months and on a par with what mothers get.

"The reform will be a major change in attitudes, as it will improve equality between parents and make the lives of diverse families easier," Pekonen said in a statement.

Because the parents don't have to take their leaves at the same time, then a family can maintain its income levels for 14 months, up from the current 11.5 months. Parents can also transfer 69 days from their own quota to the other parent.

In addition, a separate pregnancy allowance would entitle women to a month of paid pregnancy leave before the expected date of birth. A single parent could use the paid leave allowance quota for both parents.

The social reform is a keystone measure of the new center-left government led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin. At 34, she is the youngest female prime minister in the world. Her five-party coalition government has gender equality high on its agenda. Twelve of the 19 members of the Cabinet are female, and all the coalition parties are led by women, four of them aged under 35.

The changes are set to come into force next year at the earliest. The cost of the changes are estimated at 100 million euros ($110 million).

"The reform will support all kinds of families and ensure equal leaves for children regardless of the form of the family," Pekonen said.

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