Huge differences in employment rates among immigrants from various countries
There are remarkably large differences in the employment rates of immigrants to Finland from various countries. For example, only 19% of the Estonian immigrants were unemployed at the end of 2003, while the figure for Somali immigrants was as high as 58%.
According to an estimate by the Ministry of Labour, the general unemployment rate of immigrants was about 29% at the beginning of last year. In comparison, the unemployment rate for the Finnish population was 9%.
In the Helsinki capital region, where the majority of immigrants live, the employment situation was reported to be slightly better. Even though no comparable figures are available, for example one in four of all immigrants living in Helsinki was recorded to be unemployed in 2000.
One reason for the high unemployment rate of immigrants in Finland is related to the fact that Finnish employers regard Finnish education and work experience as better than foreign equivalents. This fact is indicated in a selection of articles to be published today by Statistics Finland, entitled Maahanmuuttajien elämää Suomessa (Immigrant Life in Finland). Consequently, a majority of immigrants have been forced to change their profession in order to get work.
Statistics Finland studied the living conditions of Russian, Estonian, Somali, and Vietnamese immigrants in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa in 2002. The first three groups form the largest immigrant groups in Finland.
The Estonians are in the best position with clearly the lowest unemployment rate. Moreover, the quality of their jobs as well as the risk of unemployment reported are both almost similar to those experienced by Finnish employees.
"Among the reasons for the Estonians' good position in Finland are a good command of the Finnish language as well as the similarity of the two cultures", says researcher Hanna Sutela of Statistics Finland.
By comparison, Sutela points out that the Russians' average level of education is clearly higher than that of the other immigrant groups studied, but their employment rate was still 40% in 2003, as they have not been able to benefit from their better education and work experience.
The study shows that typically the immigrants' employment prospects get better the longer they stay in Finland. Nevertheless, the labour market status of the immigrants from Somalia, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia is still rather poor.
Researcher Tuula Joronen of the Information Centre of the City of Helsinki notes that originally the situation of Somalian immigrants was worsened by the fact that they arrived in Finland during the economic recession.
Even after the recession, the Somalian immigrants have experienced difficulties in finding jobs in Finland, regardless of the fact that many of them now have Finnish education in the sectors with labour shortage. Joronen notes that it is hard to find any other explanation for the phenomenon than negative attitudes and impressions.
Ali Quassim of Immigrants' Support in Finland shares Ms. Joronen's view.
"When looking for a job, the citizenship clearly makes a difference. It is a little easier for those who have already been granted Finnish citizenship, but even in those cases, employers frequently ask for their country of origin", Quassim says.
Working among immigrants every day, Quassim is aware that problems frequently start already while they are studying. "Sometimes Somali students find it almost impossible to find employment training, unless a special project is provided by their school or institute to help them graduate".
On the other hand, the Somalis' situation has improved over the last few years. Most of the Somalis have found employment in the public sector, particularly in the teaching and social services sections.
Common to all immigrant groups in Finland is their disappointment with Finnish working life. On the other hand, the immigrants' integration into Finnish society has been far more effective in many other areas.
For example, they are considerably more satisfied with their living conditions, even though immigrants in general have too small homes in Finland compared with the size of their families.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Estonian immigrants are better off in Finland than those from Russia (14.10.2004)
City of Espoo: Immigrant Support in Finland