The principle of freedom of choice in childcarematters has been a central element of Finnish family policy since the 1980s andis something that makes the country unique in an international comparison. Onethe one hand this principle has been manifested as a legislated right forparents, notably mothers, to choose paid work supported by the use of publicchildcare. On the other hand it has also given parents with children underthree the right to stay home with their children and to receive a child homecare allowance during this period. This dualism has been widely popular amongparents and has also been seen by most leading parties as something that isgood for families. However, since the outbreak of the international financialcrisis, this system has faced increasing critique from some experts andpoliticians, which has made the principle of freedom of choice, and especiallythe child home care allowance/leave, susceptible to renegotiation. This articleinvestigates how the principle of freedom of choice was politicized by eightleading parties during the Finnish parliamentary election campaign in 2015,through an analysis of election manifestos. First, we analyse to what extentthis principle was politicized, and by whom? Secondly, we study how theprinciple was framed. The findings show that the principle of freedom of choicewas a rather politicized topic, creating a cleavage between conservative andleftist/liberal parties. Moreover, they indicate a renegotiation of thisprinciple in favour of higher parental employment promotion and genderequality.
- family policy
- political parties