Finland’s difficult quest for foreign laborers
In a recent article in the London Financial Times. there is an article about how Finland is aiming to become a magnet for foreign laborers. While this is understandable, taking into account Finland’s aging population and the shortage of workers in some sectors of the economy, the country’s policy makers still have a lot of work to do before the country becomes an attractive magnet.
Facts such as 20% jobless claims by foreigners, high taxation and housing prices, harsh climate, language and, very importantly, the lack of foreign communities and outright opposition to foreigners by some Finns, undermine its attractiveness to outsiders. Laborers would have an easier time in places such as Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Another thumbs down to Finland’s quest is that it still continues to place hiring restrictions on foreign workers despite being a member of the European Union. If a Finnish company employs a foreigner, it has to prove that a Finnish worker could not do the job.
In my opinion it is a paradox that Finland, which had fought in past decades to assert a sense of strong national identity, is seeing itself a victim of such a rigid stance. It creates a narrow view of the world and scares away people from making Finland their home.
Why would I want to move to a country and bring up my children where they will always be reminded by some that they are foreigners? All you have to do is look at the myriad of comments in this blog to understand that some Finns are not ready to handle more foreigners in this country, especially if they are black.
Finland has a long way to go before it becomes a magnet for foreign laborers. First it will have to convince the labor unions that they should hire foreigners in the face of unemployed Finns. Second, the rigid perceptions of how Finns see outsiders will have to change. Some continue to see foreigners as a threat to the culture.
A complete about-turn will have to take place and this will not happen overnight, but take decades, probably generations to set in. I do not see it any other way, unless you want to maintain the present untenable status quo of keeping 20% of foreigners outside of the economy and their children aloof from Finnish society.
What is scary is that it appears that not even our policy makers seem to know what they are doing and what bringing more foreigners to the country imply. It looks more like a program left to chance than anything else.