Immigration to Finland Stays Modest

As you can see from the above graph, immigration is still at very modest levels here in Finland because:

    • Geography has put us in a rather isolated position in the northern corner of Europe. and
    • The weather is relatively cold and winters are long and dark.

The government is determined to locate conscientious hard-working immigrants because we have a fast ageing population with relatively fewer workers staying in the labour market. We need new hands to keep the export markets lubricated and to keep the basic services running smoothly.

Finland may have appear less attractive on the surface but this is a great place to live – it is safe, the population is well educated, and the basic services – healthcare, education and public transport are well organised and basically free. We have one of the highest standard of living in the world and being and entrepreneur is regarded to be important and is hassle-free. 

The government recognises that the integration of immigrants and their success in the labor market have a positive impact on Finland’s public finances. Successful integration requires information on how the structures of society support the integration of newcomers into Finnish society. 

In a recent press conference the government presented a set of new papers (unfortunately only in Finnish) that form a basis for immigration policy. Finland has been rather slow with immigration policy according to Jari Gustafsson, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employmen, said that Finland has been slow in realising that skilled working immigrants should be part of government policy. Thus papers written by a group of eminent researchers from the universities have presented answers to the following questions: 

  1. How can we attract skilled immigrants to Finland – plenty of competition but efforts necessary?
  2. How can we improve the paperwork process to get it into one month?
  3. How can we get Finnish society to be more international?

Employment alone is not an indication of successful integration, nor is there just one indicator for effective integration, “Integration as a phenomenon covers multiple dimensions and factors, and involves participation from both the receiving society and the immigrants themselves. The receptiveness of working life affects the employment opportunities of immigrants, and conversely, employment affects the social participation of immigrants, which is an important contributor to successful integration”, explains Sonja Hämäläinen, Migration Director at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The above set of papers note that Finland attracts international students, and that students with an immigrant background are able to repay this investment to society after graduation. It was also noted in the articles that the labour market was ethnically hierarchical: the earnings level and employment rate of highly educated immigrants who stayed in Finland are somewhat below those of Finns. In addition, the number of applications immigrants needed to send before they received an invitation to an interview are much higher compared to Finns even if their education and skills profiles were identical to those of Finnish applicants.

The individual characteristics of immigrants, such as education or language skills, do not explain these integration and employment trends; it is a broader issue involving immigration policy and the attitudes of society.

At the end of 2018, the number of population in Finland with an immigrant background was approximately 400,000. Migration to Finland has been rising at a steady rate since the 1990s, with growth expected to continue. To ensure successful integration of immigrants, we need multiple perspectives into the kind of support immigrants need, what their strengths and challenges are in terms of integration, and how social structures support non-discrimination.

Every four years, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s Centre of Expertise in Immigrant Integration publishes a comprehensive review of integration as part of the integration monitoring system. The monitoring system and the 2019 review are divided into the following themes: employment, education, wellbeing, participation and two-way integration. The comprehensive review for 2019 consists of indicator infographics and a research publication.

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