“A recent survey by the Association of Kindergarten Teachers in Finland reveals that the shortage of qualified kindergarten teachers is becoming increasingly acute. Almost a quarter of child day-care centre directors report serious difficulties in finding qualified candidates, even for permanent jobs. It is feared that a deterioration of day-care services will negatively influence the employment of mothers of small children and increase inequality between families.”
Statistics Finland /www.stat.fi
In Finland mothernity leave is nine months, so most of the children who go to day care are nine months old. There are day care centres which are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. There are several units at a centre, one for the kids from 9 months old to three years old and one for the ones from 3 to 6 years old and one unit, s.c. preschool unit for the children from 6 to 7 years old. All 6 year old children can go to pre-school. Some centres have also a unit for children who are over 7 years old.
One of the main aims of publicly organised childcare has been to balance out differences in children’s social background, as well as to offer parents the opportunity to take up studies and participate in the labour market regardless of their income level or geographical location. In Finland, the high employment rate of women (67.3%) is associated with the full-time working culture. Finland’s gender employment gap is the narrowest (3.9%) among the 27 EU Member States. The affordable and high-quality public day-care service has been a major factor enabling the high full-time employment rates of Finnish women. However, it is feared that a lack of day-care services will negatively influence the employment of mothers of small children and increase inequality between families.
Main problems in the sector of day-care services in Finland are: acute shortage of kindergarten teachers, poor working conditions and management shortcomings.. Low pay, stressful working conditions, insufficient resources and temporary employment relationships have acted as a disincentive to kindergarten teacher graduates, who prefer to pursue their careers elsewhere or continue studying to become school teachers. According to “www.stat. fi” educational structure of day-care staff: previously ,50% of day-care staff were qualified kindergarten teachers, whereas today this proportion has dropped to 30%. The remainder of the staff are childminders, who are usually trained as kindergarten practical nurses but lack teacher training. Directors of day-care sectors are responsible for two or three different day-care facilities. This has led to situations where directors’ job descriptions have been too broadly defined, thus leading to many problems and confusion in relation to their responsibilities in the daily work of the day-care centres.
In order to improve today´s situation in the field of day-care Finnish Government has to pay more attention to working conditions, salary level and provide more educational possibilities for kindergarten practical nurses. To my mind is possible to create specialized educational programs where experienced practical nurses can study for a higher degree and then practice and continue working in the same day-care center where they were before. It is also necessary for each individual facility in a day-care center to have its own director in order to decrease pressure on managers.