In 1930s Finland birth rates were in decline, but infant mortality was not. The maternity grant was introduced in 1938 to incentivise expecting mothers to seek pre-natal care with the public health services. This makes the Finnish maternity grant an older invention than the ballpoint pen, or the atomic bomb.
The grant was initially only offered to low-income families and was worth a third of an industrial worker’s average monthly wages. Already at the time, expecting mothers could choose to receive the grant either as a package of goods, or as monetary compensation. In 1949, the program had proven successful and was extended to all expecting mothers.
In its modern form – a cardboard box that also functions as a bed, full of baby necessities – the package has existed already since the 1950s! In 1960 Finland already had one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, and has now topped the list for decades.
In Finland around 40,000 families receive a governmental baby package every year. Although its medical significance may have declined as educational and income levels have risen, the package has become a national icon and a cross-generational unifier.
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