Even among highly developed nations, there are vast disparities in the experience of becoming a mom.
We all know that the Nordic countries consistently rank sky high when it comes to many measures of wellness—happiness, health, quality of life, life expectancy, education, and the list goes on.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Finland is frequently touted as one of the best places to become a mother. As CBS This Morning points out, the country has the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world. The Finnish government’s maternity and paternity leave policies put many countries to shame. Residents enjoy top-notch, low-cost healthcare, which includes free checkups for kids after birth.
To top it off, every new mom receives a box full of gifts in the mail to make the first weeks and months with their baby easier, and the box itself can double as a bed for her baby.
In other words, Finnish moms have got it good from the get go.
When you look at the numbers compared to the U.S., it’s even clearer how good Finnish moms have it.
First, there’s the cost of healthcare. The average natural childbirth in a U.S. hospital costs around $12,000, and many insurances don’t cover the whole cost. (I paid $1500 out of pocket after insurance for an unmedicated, uncomplicated childbirth in which baby and I stayed in the hospital for less than 24 hours.) In Finland, the whole childbirth will set families back a whopping $60.
Sixty. Six zero. For the whole childbirth.
Then there’s the actual health of new moms. Finnish mothers are much more likely to survive childbirth and the postpartum period than American moms. In fact, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is six times higher than it is in Finland. Six. Times. And our rates have only gotten worse over the past few decades, while Finland’s have gotten better.
Maternal death rates for African-American moms are three times higher in the U.S. than for white moms. That’s one reason why Laura Smith, a black mother from Detroit living in Helsinki with her Finnish husband, told CBS that she chose to have her baby in Finland instead of the U.S. “My concerns mattered,” she said. “My voice mattered. They saw me, they took care of me no matter what I look like. That’s something I couldn’t be certain about in the States.”
How about paid maternity leave? In Finland, moms a guaranteed four months of paid maternity leave. Fathers get almost two months of paid leave, and then couples get another five-ish months of leave to share between them.
How much paid maternity and paternity leave are Americans guaranteed? None. Nada. Zilch. (And we’re the only developed nation with that claim to fame. Winning!)
Instead of “Make America Great Again,” maybe we should try to “Make America Great Like Finland.” MAGLF!
Yes, Finns pay higher taxes for these benefits. But you don’t hear many of them complaining.
Americans have a long-standing hatred for paying taxes. Issues with taxation are literally what drove our founders to declare independence from the crown, so distrust of taxes is woven into the fabric of our national identity. Therefore, when we hear that people pay a higher percent of their income in taxes in Finland, our first reaction is, “Aw, hell no.”
But when you add up how much we pay for healthcare, how much we pay for daycare (subsidized by the Finnish government and adjusted according to income), how much we pay for college (yep, higher education is also covered in Finland), etc., what the Finns pay doesn’t actually look that high. Everyone in a society benefits when people have their healthcare needs met, the populace is well educated, and families are able to care for their children without stressing over whether they can pay their bills.
When CBS told a Finnish mother that in parts of the U.S. moms receive no paid maternity leave, she asked, “Well how do you do that?” Excellent question.
“We are collecting a lot of taxes,” said Finland’s Family Affairs and Social Services Minister Annika Saarikko, “but if you go and ask from the Finns, ‘Are you okay with that?’ everybody is saying, ‘Yes. We have good use with that system.'”
Many people argue that there are fundamental differences between the U.S. and Finland that make comparisons difficult. However, at least when it comes to healthcare, the argument falls flat—literally every other developed nation in the world provides universal healthcare.
Helsinki University Hospital Chief Physician Dr. Aydin Tekay told CBS This Morning that the only reason the Finnish healthcare system couldn’t be replicated in the U.S. is because of politics.
Watch the segment on CBS This Morning:
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