Top of the World in Happiness Report but How is Finland Integrating Immigrants?

Jari Lindström, the minister of employment. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Finland is at the top of the latest “Happiness Report,” and the message from the Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs was also upbeat regarding Finland’s integration of immigrants. The Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is a unique tool which measures policies to integrate migrants.

167 indicators have been developed to create a rich, multi-dimensional picture of migrants’ opportunities to participate in society, which academics and governments can use to measure the effectiveness of different policies compared to other countries.

Finland was fourth behind Norway, Sweden, Portugal and New Zealand in the last index published in 2014. If you believe the nationalist political parties across Europe, immigrants have become a big problem but in Finland, the opposite is true according to the figures supplied by the Ministry of Employment. Immigrants only form a tiny fraction of the total numbers employed or unemployed people and non-native Finns bring a significant benefit to the economy of Finland.

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In the past immigrant entrepreneurs have been associated with restaurants and fast food joints. This has given Finns a taste for foods from all over the world, and that may be a very visible indication of immigration. However, business figures from 2015 suggest that for proprietors originating outside of Finland only 20 percent were involved in the food and restaurant trade. Interestingly, the range of different industries was great, from computers to transport and health services.

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In an interview with Finland Today, Jari Lindström, the minister of employment, pointed out that even though Finland has taken huge steps to integrate migrants there may still be more to do. For example: In Finland, immigrants and their families who are African are 60 percent more likely to encounter discrimination compared to a European Union average of 38 percent. There was also the danger of ghettos forming as poor people drift towards the cheapest available housing. Hence the ministry hoped to change attitudes and provide good professional training opportunities to increase the level of employment for everyone.

Three key government policies were emphasized. Firstly, immigration is good for Finland and active strategies such as the Talent Boost scheme, which will continue to take measures to attract international experts and businesses. Secondly, the government will promote work and the support needed to gain employment for the whole family so gaining a skilled workforce.

Rapid integration of migrant children into the mainstream Finnish schools was essential. Expansion of schools with the curriculum taught mostly in English was also important to attract foreign skilled workers. And thirdly, to promote good population relations to reduce immigrant discrimination in everyday life and the workplace. Even with people living longer than ever, 2017 saw Finland’s death rate exceed the numbers of citizens born. So, the government has a delicate job to keep the employment rate of the country at a level suitable for economic success for all.

However, with all the different budgetary demands will there still be cash available for the niceties of encouraging harmony in the whole population? What do you think?  We would be pleased to hear your personal experience of integration into Finnish life and the work place. Leave a comment below.

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