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Somalis’ employment situation improving steadily

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By Milka Sauvala
      Getting a job is the most important goal set in official immigration policy. Unemployment among those speaking Somali as a mother tongue was 43.3 per cent according to figures put out by Statistics Finland for 2008.
      Among the Somalis, adults outside the work force, as housewives and as conscripts, outnumber those who are officially unemployed. The employment level is just 29.8 per cent.
      Mervi Virtanen, Director of Immigration at the Ministry of the Interior, points out that the unemployed include those who have recently come to Finland, who have neither linguistic skills, nor a profession.
      “On a general level there still seems to be prejudice against Somalis in society.”
However, the situation is not necessarily all that grim. Employment should be examined over a longer period, says Annika Forsander, director of immigration issues for the City of Helsinki.
      For the Somalis who came to Finland in the first wave, in 1989-1993, the employment rate in 2007 was 58 per cent, according to a study which is being prepared at the Urban Facts department of the City of Helsinki.
      In the same year the employment rate for the whole population was 69.9 per cent.
“Employment has constantly improved, the more years have gone by”, Forsander says. “This suggests that immigrants are growing out of their dependency on social welfare but it takes time, especially with refugees.”
      Some Somalis have found employment in work that takes place among other Somalis - as teachers, school assistants, or teachers of the Somali language, but there are no figures on that.
      “It is a good thing in the sense that these people are needed, but it is not good if immigrants end up doing immigrant work and nothing else. Then their possibilities of advancing in their careers and in society into other tasks are narrowed”, Virtanen says.
Forsander notes that many interpreters have had linguistic training, and are working in their own field. She also admits that employment that is limited to work among one’s own group can be a trap.
      One problem is that Somalis, and immigrants in general, are often employed at short-term jobs.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 25.4.2010

More on this subject:
 Somalis in Finland 20 years: Difficult road to paid work

Previously in HS International Edition:
  SDP’s Heinäluoma criticised over comments on work-based immigration (26.4.2010)
  A new generation at the mosque (11.4.2010)
  Rami Sipilä does not like Somalis (15.2.2009)
  Huge differences in employment rates among immigrants from various countries (14.3.2005)

MILKA SAUVALA / Helsingin Sanomat

  27.4.2010 - THIS WEEK

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