Sanna Marin: What does the world's youngest prime minister stand for?

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Finland’s new prime minister Sanna Marin will become the world’s youngest PM when she is sworn in next week. But who is she, and what does she stand for?

Finland’s former transport minister Sanna Marin has been named the country’s new prime minister – and with it, claims the title of the world’s youngest prime minister at the age of 34. The new leader was elected after the Social Democrats leader, Antii Rinne, stepped down from the prime minister position.

In her new role, Marin will lead a centre-left coalition made up of four other parties, all of which are led by women. Three out of four of those women are also under 35.

“I have never thought about my age or gender,” Marin told reporters when asked questions about her age. “I think of the reasons I got into politics and those things for which we have won the trust of the electorate.”

While she is the third female prime minister in Finland’s history, Marin makes history on an international level by becoming the world’s youngest sitting prime minister, beating Ukraine’s 35-year-old Oleksiy Honcharuk and New Zealand’s 39-year-old Jacinda Ardern. But who is Sanna Marin, and what does she stand for?

Who is Sanna Marin?

Sanna Marin has risen quickly through the ranks of the Social Democrats party since she began her career in politics. At the age of 27 (in 2012), she was already head of a city administration, and in 2015, she secured her place in politics as an MP. She has also been transport and communications minister since June.

Born in Helsinki, Marin grew up with her mother and her female partner, and has previously said that she felt “invisible” as a child because she wasn’t able to talk openly about her family. 

Despite coming from a working-class household, Marin has said her mother has always been supportive of her and told her she could do anything she wanted. After school, she became the first person in her family to go to university.

She gave birth to her first daughter, Emma, in 2018. 

What does she stand for?

Marin, a millennial and active social media user, is spearheading youth-led centrism with a focus on major increases in public spending on welfare and infrastructure, and the environment and diversity at the heart of her agenda.

Shorter work weeks

After just a month in office, she has called for the introduction of a four-day work week and six-hour work days.

“I believe people deserve to spend more time with their families, loved ones, hobbies and other aspects of life, such as culture. This could be the next step for us in working life,” the Social Democratic Party leader told NewEurope.

Currently, the Finns typically work eight hours a day, five days a week but have the right to start or finish work three hours earlier or later.

Gender equality

Marin’s cabinet has the highest proportion of female representation in the European Union, no small feat even for a country which became the first in the world to elect women to parliament and now has a roughly gender-split parliament.

Finland currently has a gender pay parity across 83.2% of its economy, trailing behind only Iceland and Norway. However, the country has one of the most gender-segregated labour markets in Europe with men and women tending to cluster in certain professions, such as STEM, where two-thirds of senior academic posts are held by men, despite women holding 60% of new PhDs.

However, Marin and her government are already addressing this with a programme set to teach gender education and fundamentals of fairness from kindergarten through to the workplace in a bid to dispel outdated stereotypes about gender and remove perceived gender-barriers for certain industries.

Environment

Marin and her coalition will also continue the work they agreed to in June, including a pledge to make the country carbon neutral by 2035 – the most ambitious climate target in the world.

After taking over her role in the middle of a three-day wave of strikes, Marin is also focused on re-establish the country’s confidence in her government.

Speaking to reporters after winning the vote for leadership, she said the government had “a lot of work to do to rebuild trust”.

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