By Nicholas Anderson, Editor in Chief.
In general, you may think that right-wing politicians are relatively better educated than some of the other political parties because it is understood that they represent the “moneyed” folk, their important financial supporters. Of the 38 MPs in the Kokoomus (Conservative) Parliamentary Group, 26 have Masters degrees, 4 are doctors, and 3 are policemen, while just a few have missed out on any formal tertiary education. Given that the Party has already spent 12 years in government during the last 15 years, one would think that they would be welcoming skilled immigrants and lower-paid care workers because our ageing population urgently needs more skilled foreigners and care workers to supplement our falling numbers of workers. The present government, the employers’ unions, and the media have all recognized the need for more skilled immigrants and lower-paid care workers – this has never been in doubt.
Strangely this appears not to be the case with this Parliamentary Group, who are now proposing to treat immigrants separately from what they initially called “Native Finns” (whatever that means). They later changed this unfortunate expression to “Finnish nationals living here as permanent residents” which is not much better! The Party has proposed 9 “new” recommendations that contain some real stinkers. Given that the party has been in government for most of the last 15 years, one can ask why they are coming with 9 proposals just now when in opposition!
Basically, they want to limit welfare benefits for new arrivals until they learn Finnish, (nothing said about learning Swedish), and become really familiar with Finnish society. Without full access to low basic benefits, how can anyone learn Finnish and learn to read HS or HbL in a few years when they are looking for work, or working in low paid jobs, if found, and raising a family. Finnish is not exactly a useful language in the global markets and familiarisation with Finnish customs and traditions – and that is a tough demand even for Finns. Furthermore, three of the proposals are merely copy/paste solutions from Sweden, Norway and Denmark. They represent lazy thinking, and are basically aimed at keeping economic migrants out of the country, even though we already have such policies in place here.
Finns are justifiably proud of our Constitution that explains the meaning of Equality in Section 6. “Everyone is equal before the law and no one shall, without an acceptable reason, be treated differently from other persons on the ground of sex, age, origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability or other reason that concerns his or her person. Furthermore, equality of the sexes is promoted in societal activity and working life, especially in the determination of pay and the other terms of employment.”
The Constitution does not define “everyone” to mean just “Finnish nationals living here as permanent residents”. Many other groups are left out by the Party’s proposals like other EU residents, newly arrived foreign partners of Finns, and foreign students studying at Finnish universities who would like to stay on and work here. Finland belongs to the EU where we enjoy, at least in principle, freedom of movement and the right to live and work inside the EU. This is important for us Finns and for other EU residents. Thus on these two counts the Party seems to be taking a big step in proposing retrograde changes to the Constitution when they are supposed to be the most pro-European party!
The present government has announced new measures to attract well-educated families to migrate to Finland – https://jobs.workinfinland.fi. This is an attractive place to work because society is well organised and democracy flourishes. Finns are well-educated and generally welcome conscientious foreigners – we are not overly racist or xenophobic. Basic services are efficient and income inequality is low. The environment is clean, and the streets and towns are safe. The negatives are well-known. We have a cold climate, winters are long and our main language is not useful outside Finland. However, most people speak English and a few other languages, so the question of languages is not such a big thing. More and more companies have foreigners working for them since we are very dependent on exports.
However, there are some other negative factors that need attention. Young folk from the EU who come to Finland through relationships or marriage have a really hard time finding work because foreigners are not the first choice in the private sector, and opportunities few and far between in the public sector. Unemployed partners seldom stay for long and often take their wife or husband to other countries where more job opportunities are available. Many top performing foreign students from the EU or elsewhere who have graduated from our universities often complain about discrimination when trying to secure a job. They too cannot afford or want to spend too much time searching when many job applications go unanswered.
Political parties are opinion leaders that need to back up their promises with real incentives to help foreigners find work and, more importantly, encourage employers to accept that diversity is what most firms and the economy as a whole need… and surprising, the Conservative Party is not setting a very good example here today.
By Nicholas Anderson – First published in Swedish, August 2021 in Affärsmagasinet Forum / Forum Business Magazine