HELSINKI, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Finland celebrated Mother's Day on Sunday against the backdrop of increasing social debate on why the birth rate in Finland keeps declining.
In 2017, 50,139 children were born in Finland, five percent less than in 2016. More people died in 2017 than were born, but the population increased on account of immigration. The record low birth rate in recent years has been comparable only to the famine years of the 1860s.
In line with the tradition, 30 mothers were handed medals of the order of the white rose by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. The cohort of medal awarded mothers included single mothers, women who had acted as replacement parents and women chosen as social activists.
Addressing the national celebration, Minister for Family Affairs and Social Services Annika Saarikko said the country has no future without children. She said the government has decided to prepare a long-term program on how to deal with the low birth rate.
Saarikko said the medal recipients should now "take the front line" and tell how "everything was not perfect" but it was possible anyhow. Saarikko said that the obstacles for establishing a family require various solutions and a wider social commitment.
In several research reports in recent years, increased uncertainty in employment has been given as one reason for the low birthrate. Although the recession is over, jobs may still be temporary and business interests have demanded that working life should be more "flexible".
Married couples postpone children as the everyday life of a family with children is often perceived as dreary and full of quarrels.
A survey by Vaestoliitto, an advocacy organization for balanced population growth, last year also indicated young people want to travel and enjoy life and postpone children and forget that fertility of both men and women decreases as early as from age 25.
A Finnish woman gives birth to 1.65 children on average. The level matches that in countries like Austria and the Netherlands, but is higher than in many southern European countries where day care services are less developed.
Finnish women need not choose between work careers and getting children. Day care and early education services are mandated by law and offered either free of charge or at a low cost throughout the country.
Finland is also paying compensation for taking care of children at home and the system has been seen as a reason for the worse position of women on the labor market.
The current low birthrates are endangering the Finnish pension system. In Finland people are not required to put money aside for pensions, but legally mandated pensions are financed from the salaries of those currently working.