The lack of staff and resources in kindergartens in the metropolitan area has led to some parents being called and asked to take their children home.
One year old daughter Natalia Salmela started the kindergarten in early September and the shortage of staff at the center immediately became apparent.
"The staff changes all the time. The deputy manager plays with the children because there are no other employees to do it," Salmela said, adding that even her child’s first parenting meeting had to be canceled due to staff shortages.
Last week, Salmela Kindergarten informed all parents that their children had to be picked up earlier than usual because no substitute teacher had been found.
Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Nasima Razmyar (SDP) told Yle that the situation in early childhood education has deteriorated and may even worsen, as the number of children entering early childhood education is forecast to increase in the coming years.
Razmyar said Helsinki is in danger of failing to meet its legal obligations.
"It can even be said that it is a house of cards that is in danger of collapsing," Razmyar said.
According to the deputy mayor, the solution in the city’s hands is to alleviate labor shortages in low-wage sectors by increasing the availability of employment-linked housing, but Razmyar stressed that not all the keys to solving the problem are in the house. in the hands of the city. The government needs to increase the number of students entering early childhood education, he noted.
There have been 140 vacancies per year in Finnish language early education courses and 30 in the Swedish-speaking year. permanently.
"More university places are needed in Helsinki, where the number of kindergarten children is growing," he said and stressed that this should not be made a regional policy issue.
Working in caring for a one-year-old child is a challenge
Throughout the fall, Salmela has spent several days with her children at home.
He knows how to set his own schedule, as he writes one of Finland’s most popular blogs, White Trashand lead a marketing company. Recently, he has worked mainly in the evenings and at night.
"It’s not a dream scenario," complains Salmela.
The adjustment of working hours has had a negative impact on his business, Salmela says. Communication with customers suffers if he is unable to correspond during the day.
"Anyone who has tried to work while caring for a 1-year-old knows it’s impossible. My productivity and the quality of my work have deteriorated due to the instability of our kindergarten," he says.
The story continues after the picture.
Much has been done in recent years to improve early childhood education. The number of kindergarten places increased by 4,000 in 2017–2020. In 2021, 800 new places were added to the kindergarten.
But according to Razmyar, the situation is further complicated by the fact that the Early Childhood Education Act requires an increase in the number of people with a university degree by 2030.
In the future, two thirds of those working in early childhood education in Helsinki must have a degree in either early childhood education or sociology.
There are currently 2,500 early childhood education teachers in Helsinki. The amount required by law should be doubled by 2030.
High-quality day care is also provided by babysitters, who currently make up just over 50 percent of Helsinki’s day care staff.
Razmyar welcomes the idea of retraining nurses as early childhood education teachers.
"However, such in-service retraining of staff will also require funding until at least 2030," he says.
Razmyar points out that there is no information on the budgets of the Ministry of Education and Culture from 2023 onwards.
Helsinki’s goal is to increase the number of early childhood education employees
The strategy approved by the Helsinki City Council aims to increase participation in early childhood education. The strategy is based, among other things, on the integration of immigrants into society and working life.
In order to accelerate the development, the city decided last June to abolish the Helsinki supplement for children over one year of age.
According to Razmyar, the participation rate of 1-3 year olds is still low compared to other Nordic countries.
According to preliminary data, 37 percent of one-year-olds in the city attended public kindergartens in August 2021. A year earlier, the figure was 34 percent.
According to Razmyar, the downward trend has lasted for several years.
Investment, no expense
According to Salmela, municipalities should see day care as an investment and not as an expense.
For the next two months, her spouse will be in charge of childcare, but their solution comes at a price. When a man leaves his job as marketing director due to a lack of day care, the family loses two months ’salary and society loses the corresponding taxes.
"We have just started our kindergarten course. I don’t even want to think about how much work remains to be done and how many projects will be underway in the years to come," says frustrated Salmela.
Professor: Mothers are likely to stay home longer than planned
Tuomas KosonenA research professor at the State Economic Research Center (Vatt) believes that the shortage of staff in early childhood education will eventually be reflected in the number of mothers staying home longer than planned.
According to Kosonen, the impact of the shortage of early childhood education staff on women staying at home has not been studied, but she finds the connection credible because the subsidies and structures prevailing in society have a strong impact on the mother’s property in particular. absence from work.
According to Kosonen, long support for home care keeps mothers out of work. Home care support ends when the child turns three.
"The maternal labor force participation rate grows rather slowly until the child reaches the age of three. Studies show that mothers usually spend long periods at home," says Kosonen. "In Denmark and Norway, for example, benefits end when a child turns one. For this reason, most parents of one-year-olds return to work in these countries."
According to Kosonen, the current debate on early childhood education concerns the right to basic public services.
"It is a question of balancing the public sector. Early childhood education is a public service supported by public funds, although it is not free for all," Kosonen points out and adds that if municipalities are unable to finance childcare, they will consider cutting other expenditures or raising the tax rate for hiring early childhood education staff.
Source: The Nordic Page