Poor Kids of Finland

Told by Helsingin Sanomat (March 29, 2006):

Children and the youth are evermore clearly divided into the offspring of the well-off and the poor, says professor Veli-Matti Ritakallio from the University of Turku, Finland. Poverty in the family often reflects the child’s future. For example, the child drops out from upper secondary education (high school) simply because her or his parents cannot afford the textbooks. The children are also divided into groups through their hobbies.

Today, 100,000 Finnish children live below the poverty line. The situation for families dependent on subsistence support has worsened in the past ten years. A person on subsistence support has to get by with 11 euros per day. "Poverty gnaws at people’s minds day and night", Ritakallio suggests.

Many of the parents resort to ignoring their own needs in order to provide their offspring with what other children have. Consumption is part of the youth lifestyle, and a child without a mobile phone and fashionable clothes stands out.

The financial situation is usually good for families where both parents work. The most common poverty risk factors are unemployment, studying, a large number of children, and single parenthood. A family with children can usually cope with one risk factor, but each additional factor makes life more cumbersome, until "the burden gets so great that the back finally breaks", Ritakallio summarises.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that "on the European scale the Finnish poverty situation is still relatively good. For example in Portugal and Spain most children live below the poverty line. In Finland only one out of ten children shares the same fate." But be sure that with their joint efforts Finnish Social Democratic Party and the National Coalition Party -- which by and large are the same -- will do their utmost to balance the unequal situation, to 'bridge the gap,' so to speak. And in few years the poor kid ratio is six out of ten across the Europe.


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