The 'radical reform' aims to improve gender equality by encouraging fathers to take an equal role in childcare
(Adds comments, background)
HELSINKI, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Finland's woman-led centre-left government plans to give new fathers the same amount of paid time off work as new mothers, nearly doubling paternity leave, it announced on Wednesday.
Paid paternity leave will be extended to nearly seven months, in line with maternity leave. Around half can be given to the other parent. Pregnant women are also entitled to a month of pregnancy leave before the expected date of birth.
Minister of Health and Social Affairs Aino-Kaisa Pekonen said the aim of the "radical reform" was both to improve gender equality and to boost a declining birth rate.
"This enables better equality between parents and diversity among families," she said.
The number of newborns in Finland fell by around a fifth between 2010 and 2018, to just 47,577 babies in a country of around 5.5 million people. Pekonen said other countries such as Sweden and Iceland had seen increases in their birth rates after offering more leave for fathers.
Finland's coalition of five parties, all led by women of whom four are under 35 years old, took office in December and has made gender equality a priority.
Speaking at the 50th annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos last month, Prime Minister Sanna Marin called for states and companies to do more to ensure women were treated fairly, saying gender equality "doesn't happen by itself".
A previous centre-right Finnish government attempted to reform parental leave in 2018 but eventually rejected the idea as too costly.
Pekonen said a more equal distribution of domestic workload between parents has been proven to diminish the risk of divorce.
"Over a longer term, it also improves equality in working life and in wages by directing fathers to use a larger proportion of parental leaves than before," she said. (Reporting by Anne Kauranen Editing by Peter Graff)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.