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Children’s and youths’ rights and obligations

In Finland, persons under 18 years of age are considered children. According to the Finnish Constitution, children must be treated equally. They must be allowed to influence matters that concern them. The older the child is, the more his or her opinion must be taken into account. In Finland, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and also the Ombudsman for Children monitor that the rights of the child are respected.

6 years

  • Right and obligation:
    • A child must attend pre-primary education.
    • A child can start school with special permission.

7 years

  • Right and obligation:
    • School begins (compulsory education). In special cases, a child can start school later.

12 years

  • Right:
    • A child’s first or last name cannot be changed without his or her consent.
    • A child cannot be affiliated with a religion without his or her consent. The child’s permission is also required for leaving a religion.
    • The child of a divorced couple has the right to refuse to meet one of his or her parents.
    • A child cannot be adopted without his or her consent.
    • If there are problems in the family, a child can request for foster care themselves. Foster care means that a child does not live with his or her parents but elsewhere.
  • Obligation:
    • A child can no longer ride a bicycle on the pavement.

14 years

  • Right:
    • A child can engage in light work for a few hours a day, if it does not hinder his or her health or school going. A guardian’s signature is required for the child’s contract of employment.

15 years

  • Right:
    • A youth can enter into a contract of employment themselves. Parents can, however, dissolve the agreement of a youth under the age of 18, if the youth has not told them about the job.
    • A youth has the right to open a bank account and to control the capital he or she has earned through working.
    • A youth can take a test that allows him or her to drive a moped, tractor or motorboat.
    • A youth can carry a child under 10 years of age on a bicycle.
    • A youth can join a religion or leave one on his or her parents’ written permission.
  • Obligation:
    • A youth is responsible for the crimes he or she has committed. If a youth commits a crime, he or she may be prosecuted and sentenced for it.

16 years

Children’s sexual age of consent is 16 years. This means that sexual activity with a person under the age of 16 is a punishable act (with the exception of the mutual sexual relationship of two youths who are at the same level of development). Buying sexual services from a person who is under 18 years of age is a crime.

  • Right:
    • The right to take a test and, after passing, receive a Class A driving licence, which is required for driving a light motorcycle.
    • The right to their own personal health insurance card. This means that a 16-year-old youth is insured against old age, unemployment and incapacity for work and that any reimbursement under the health insurance is paid to the youth and not, for example, to the parents.

17 years

  • Right:
    • The right to child benefit ends.
    • A youth can apply for Kela’s financial aid for students. Their guardian’s income, however, affects the amount of this aid and whether it is granted in the first place.

18 years


  • A person of age has the right to
    • get married
    • vote in national and municipal elections
    • acquire their own passport
    • join or leave a religion
    • have control over the use of their own possessions
    • acquire a driving licence (for example, motorcycle, car)
    • gain citizenship (18-22 year old) if they have lived in Finland for an extended period.
    • Compulsory education ends unless it has already been completed.
  • Obligation:
    • men are subject to compulsory conscription (army or civil service)

Read more about the rights and obligations of people over the age of 18 on the InfoFinland web page Your rights and obligations in Finland.

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