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How about getting a job in Finland?

Vacancies in healthcare, service sector and more

By Salla Korpela, updated July 2011

Photos: Santtu Turunen/Plugi
In Finland a clear need exists to recruit people from abroad in the coming years, especially in the healthcare and service sectors.

Finland has woken up to the fact that when the post-war baby-boom age groups retire, it will face a labour shortage that its own younger generation will be unable to fill.

If all the jobs that will be vacated in healthcare services over the next few decades had to be filled by Finns only, then one in four of Finland's young people would have to train to be nurses. Since that situation is obviously a non-starter, there is a clear need to recruit people from abroad in the coming years, especially in the service and healthcare sectors.

The idea of taking either a short-term or a permanent job in Finland, or actually settling here, is not as extraordinary as it was a mere ten or twenty years ago. The attractions of working in Finland include good working conditions and high employment security. Even the intriguing Finnish language poses no barrier to newcomers willing to make an effort, although admittedly it may slow them down a bit.

Labour mobility on the rise

Photo: Pentti Sormunen/Plugi
Click to enlarge the picture
Despite the effect of economic ups and downs on the labour market, employers in Finland will need more skilled hands in the long run.

Labour mobility has in fact sped up considerably with enlargement of the European Union. In 2008 more people moved to Finland than ever before since the nation achieved independence in 1917. The numbers totalled 29,100, topping the previous year by 3,000 and exceeding the number of people who emigrated in 2008 by a good 15,000.

Finland has been, and still is to some extent, a culturally, ethnically and linguistically homogeneous country; the attitude towards newcomers has been largely one of caution among both officials and the population in general.

However, Finland has decided to bid immigrants a warm welcome. The political programme of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen's second government, which took office in spring 2007, made a clear transition from a policy on aliens to a policy on immigrants. Despite the current economic crisis and its effects on the labour market, Finnish employers will need more skilled hands in the long run.

Healthcare professionals needed

Photo: Plugi
Click to enlarge the picture
Finnish employers have participated in job fairs across Europe. Healthcare is one sector where demand is greater than supply.

Mobility is currently encouraged, especially within Europe. When European citizens wish to move abroad to work, they are assisted by EURES, the European Employment Services network. More than 800 advisers in public employment services in the EU Member States are involved in EURES. In Finland there are 31 of them at Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment in major towns. These experts help companies looking for workers from outside Finland and people in Finland seeking jobs abroad to find the necessary contacts and channels.

In recent years, it has become common for numerous countries to arrange recruitment fairs. The countries where Finnish employers have attended fairs include Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Hospitals all over Finland have actively encouraged Finnish expatriates in Sweden to return home.

"Those who come to talk to potential Finnish employers at fair stands include young people in particular, who may have studied in Finland through programmes such as the Erasmus exchange programme. They have pleasant memories of Finland and often speak some Finnish, too," says ministerial adviser Tiina Oinonen of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, who has been involved in EURES for a number of years.

Open your mind to Finnish

Though immigrants are supported in many ways, coming to work in Finland does of course require a certain spirit of enterprise and an open mind. The most important issue, and the biggest, is language. There are very few jobs where it is possible to work without knowing any Finnish at all, and for reasons of occupational safety alone it is vital to be able to communicate.

Photo: Tarja Hoikkala/Vastavalo
Click to enlarge the picture
In healthcare and any other field, knowing Finnish is an advantage. This may call for intensive learning, but experience shows that it's doable.

Local authorities – and indeed many employers too – provide immigrants and their families with language training, either free or at very low cost. There are individual differences in how fast people learn a new language, of course, but Oinonen reckons that with six months of intensive effort one should learn enough to get by at the average workplace. The level of Finnish skills necessary depends greatly on the nature of the work.

Finland sets great value on vocational training, and statutory qualification requirements exist in many fields and positions. Anyone who has studied and gained a qualification outside Finland would therefore do well to check in advance that their qualifications are officially accepted in Finland.

Immigrants are entitled by law to integration services, with local authorities and employment and economic development offices carrying the prime responsibility for organising them.

Finland has much to offer

So what does Finland have to offer workers from abroad? Why is it worth coming to Finland?

"Finland can offer good, high-quality working conditions, employees have a secure status, children and adolescents enjoy good educational opportunities, public services run smoothly and we have many successful, internationally respected companies," Oinonen states.

And then of course there is our wonderful northern countryside with its multitude of recreational and sporting opportunities, a lively cultural life, a wide range of inexpensive study choices, clean and comfortable housing, and a society that really functions well in every way. Welcome to Finland!

Quick facts

  • In 2008, 29,100 people migrated to Finland (exceeding emigration by 15,450), compared with 26,029 (8,986) in 2007.
  • Over 75% of all immigrants are of working age, and many bring small children with them.
  • The number of foreigners living in Finland in 2008 was 143,197 (2.7% of the total population); the four biggest groups being Russians (26,887), Estonians (22,509), Swedes (8,493) and Somalis (4,919).
  • Net immigration in 2008 came mostly from Estonia (2,598), Russia (698), China (642), Poland (442) and India (403).

10 steps to working and living in Finland


1. Find out about jobs on offer and the requirements for them. Visit the websites of the Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (only in Finnish) and the European Employment Services network, for example. Firms specialising in job recruitment can be found on the internet, and Finnish newspapers and their websites have job advertisements, though these are mostly in Finnish (see Oikotie or Uratie).
2. Find out what permits you will need to live and work in Finland, at the Finnish Immigration Service website.
3. Do you need recognition of your educational qualifications? Ask for an application at recognition(at)oph.fi. For the healthcare sector, applications should be addressed to the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health: www.valvira.fi/en/.
4. To find a place to live and to open a bank account, go first to your employer, who will be able to guide you to the local services. Regarding integration and language matters, children's schooling, healthcare and social security, turn to the local authorities in your new home municipality. Every Finnish municipality has its own website, so start at the general municipal website. Social security is managed by the Social Insurance Institution (KELA).
5. What should you bring and what are you allowed to bring with you into Finland? See the Finnish Customs website.
6. Anyone staying in Finland for at least a year must register in the Finnish population data system. See the Local Register Offices' website.
7. Is your driving licence valid in Finland? Ask the police or the Finnish Vehicle Administration for information.
8. Does an immigrant have to pay tax, and how is that done? Find out at the tax administration website.
9. Will you need further vocational training or courses in Finnish? Study the options at the education portal.
10. What is life like in Finland? thisisFINLAND offers some basic information, but you might also try Suomi.fi or Info Bank (the latter appears in 15 languages).

See also

Finnish healthcare goes multicultural »

Links :

Working in Finland by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy
In To Finland 
Employment regulations in Finland

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