Vent: work-life balance

I just read an article in HS concerning working mothers and tax deduction eligibility http://www.hs.fi/tulosta/HS20110802SI1MA01ko8. In Finland you can officially employ help in the home, get tax benefits, and both be better off. There is less cash-in-hand employment, more employment in general, and less household tasks / babysitting problems for the working parents.

The only problem is, I don’t live in Finland. In the UK the benefits system breaks down after household income hits £ 40 000 per annum. I.e. no more benefits, unless your employer is in the childcare voucher scheme that can give you upto 10% of your childcare costs back in the form of tax reductions. 10 per cent..

Let’s put the numbers in perspective. Our modest apartment that could not for instance accommodate an au pair (too few rooms) or has no outdoor space nor storage (our cardboard boxes full of wedding china are still on the floor due to lack of cupboard space) costs about £ 1400 a month. To get to work we both need a 3-zone commuter pass costing £ 124. Daycare costs an additional £ 900 a month. Taxes are around 25 per cent Leaving approx £ 30 000 annually. The above-mentioned expenses have reduced that amount to -576. Not kidding. Negative. Thus a household earning just above any benefit limit cannot a) have a child in daycare or b) declare all their income! What people do is, they exploit the system. No one can survive in this climate without doing so.

What do I do then? I am together with the most law-abiding, conscientious person I have ever met in my life. He will not take care of children during flexi-time (which i suspect many people do), nor have a cash-in-hand childminder on a regular basis. Also, they are not that easy to find. And from what i hear, not so cheap either!

For us a solution for having another child would not be for me to stay at home (not that i would).  My partner and I earn the exact same, so we would not survive on one salary, nor reap the benefits. For many families the situation is different. The men earn, the women subside. And the ones who still work.. well, there is no help in sight. We have absolutely no way of employing a cleaner  nor a regular babysitter. I do the household work, shopping, cooking. Ilkka irons his clothes and does the laundry. When he has the time.

What can I say about the Finnish example? BLISS. That’s what I say.

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