Changes in values and attitudes probably played a role in the further rise in Finland’s birth rate.
While there doesn’t seem to be an unequivocal reason for this trend, researchers are now looking for answers to both the impact of the pandemic and changing values and attitudes.
Finland’s birth rate fell steadily for nearly a decade, eventually hitting an all-time low. The fertility rate fell from 1.87 births per woman in 2010 to 1.35 in 2019.
At the end of 2019, the birth rate began to slowly increase and during the coronavirus pandemic, especially in 2021, so many children were born that public discourse once again used the phrase “baby boom”.
The recovery in the birth rate over the past two years is still under review.
Researchers from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) say that unlike many other wealthier countries, the birth rate in Finland has started to rise during the pandemic.
However, THL’s view is that the increase in birth rates is more likely a rebound to a stable level, after the period of decline.
Even so, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic cannot be completely ruled out, says research professor THL Mika Gissler.
“Although small, the pandemic as a factor is supported by the fact that growth has been strongest in the Helsinki and Uusimaa region, areas where coronavirus restrictions have also been the strictest” , notes Gissler.
Anna RotkirchDirector of the Population Research Institute of the Finnish Family Federation, takes a similar view.
Rotkirch points out that studies are still ongoing, but some indicators are already evident.
“For example, we know that for some groups of the population, the first phase of the pandemic boosted the birth rate, or at least did not hinder it. However, open questions include, for example, a change more permanent values, how the importance of work and career has changed, or whether the couple’s bond has weakened,” explains Rotkirch.
Regarding these factors, she points out that it is still unclear whether the pandemic and new forms of hybrid work will have longer-lasting effects on family formation and birth rates.
According to Rotkirch, there are concerns that birth rates vary widely between different social classes. The most recent rise has been particularly evident among highly educated people.
There is also debate about the role of politics in the birth rate, both publicly and from a research perspective.
The importance of policy decisions can be seen in the role played, for example, by various subsidies, parental leave policy and options for dealing with infertility.
The government has also established recent population policy guidelines that increasingly support childbearing in various ways.
Based on the claims for maternity benefits from the Kela social insurance institution and the number of maternity visits, it seems likely that the birth rate will stabilize and show no further increase this year, at least.