“I find it interesting that you talk about Finland as being an example, but here we are asking ourselves why people are having so few children,” says MLL’s Maria. In Finland, like elsewhere, the answer to that question is complicated, and ranges from anxiety about climate change, to more women in the workplace and the rising cost of living.

“Of course, if there are less children, there are less family cafés,” MLL’s Ylikojola wrote in an email. “We are not so worried of (sic) what happens to our family cafés, but we are worried of (sic) the fertility rates.”

The massive demographic shift underway in rich countries like Finland has serious implications for the future of social welfare programs like the family cafés, whose role it is to support new parents and their babies, and the impoverishment of initiatives like these is ultimately a loss for everyone. As UC Berkeley’s Gopnik explains, “if you were going to do one thing that makes a difference to both general welfare and inequality, investing in raising young children is the thing that makes the biggest difference.”

Read more from our series on Rewiring Childhood. This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.

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