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Cardboard boxes Australia

Baby bonus v cardboard box
November 30, 2014 – 12:44 pm

Unpacking the Finnish "maternity package", a set of clothes and all kinds of other necessary items a baby needs. The package is provided free of charge to all babies born in Finland.

While the baby bonus as it stands now will no longer be available, the Government will increase family payments through the Family Tax Benefit, however it is estimated that around 28, 000 stay-at-home mothers who do not qualify for family payments will be left with no government support.

This issue really begs the question, what is the purpose of the baby bonus? And why do we expect our government to “pay us to have babies” anyway? Comparing the Australian system to the way another government does it is not only interesting, but may help us to think outside the box on this subject.

Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes

Since the 1930s, mothers in Finland have received a filled cardboard box from the state as a type of baby starter-kit. Available to all expectant mothers, regardless of income, the kit contains items such as gender-neutral bodysuits, a sleeping bag, bedding material and a mattress that fit into the box, outdoor clothing, baby bathing products, cloth nappies, a baby book, bra pads and condoms. The contents of the box have evolved over time, steered by need, but also as a method of promoting certain mothering behaviours. For instance:

  • Baby bottles and dummies were removed in order to promote breastfeeding
  • Disposable nappies were replaced by cloth nappies in order to be more environmentally friendly
  • Including a mattress in the box encouraged parents to sleep their babies in the box as a method of reducing co-sleeping
  • The addition of a picture book has served to encourage children to handle books, and one day, to read

The maternity pack was first introduced as a method of reducing Finland’s high infant mortality rates. In order to get the box, expectant mothers had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy. This served to see infant mortality rates halved in the first two decades after its introduction, from 65 in 1000 births in the 1930s, and improvements have continued ever since. Mothers have a choice of taking the box for each baby, or getting a cash grant of around 140 euros, however 95% of mothers opt for the box as it is worth much more, both in time and in money. The box serves to provide all children, regardless of their background, with an equal start in life, and to the Finns, it has become a symbol, both of the idea of equality, and of the importance of children.

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