Why the happiest city in the world is wasting time commuting to daycare?

Two years ago our daughter enrolled to daycare. We sent application half a year advance before planned start date. During the process we were informed that there is availability only far away in south, or if we are lucky in eastern city center. Both were far away from our home. Place was confirmed a week before start date and it was only 25 minute bus ride from home. We felt lucky. Education has been very good and our daughter has received best possible start to her education.

Roughly a year later we got a transfer nearby home. Education has been very good also in the new place. Our life has significantly improved, because we can save nearly an hour a day in commuting. It truly improves quality of life.

Advantage of Helsinki, and Finland, is the quality of living. Based on my experiences quality of city services is already now top-notch, yet positioning of services could be improved. Finnish law obligates every municipality to offer daycare services to every family in need. From pre-school onwards Helsinki has defined zones for entering schools. In my opinion, target for Helsinki should be to follow the same zones when providing daycare services.

Setting up new daycare center is a large investment, that requires lots of resources and time. It is used often in conjunction with varying demand to justify why everyone cannot receive a seat nearby home. City should develop a new operational model, which enables more flexible arrangement of services according to demand. Some daycare centers operate already now in multiple locations. By exploiting flexible real estate and staffing arrangements, the city could increase or decrease local capacity. City could use private providers to address temporary shortages. Right now there is plenty of space available in Helsinki. It would be good time experiment flexible real estate arrangements now to decrease density, because it would improve safety of staff and users. Development of new operational model would be investment into future.

This article was published in Helsingin Sanomat on November 27, 2020

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