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 not feasible, 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 20 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 at first.
Labour mobility on the rise
Finland has been, and still is to some extent, a culturally, ethnically and linguistically homogeneous country. However, this is gradually changing, with the growth of the European Union facilitating greater labour mobility. In 2014 the number of people moving to Finland totalled 31,510, almost double the number who emigrated (16,020).
Politically, Finland has also made a clear transition from a policy on aliens to on immigrants, and themes such as work-related immigration and social integration are part of the alignments of today’s government program. 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
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 representatives can be found 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, hospitals all over Finland have actively encouraged Finnish expatriates in Sweden to return home. Furthermore, it has become common for numerous countries to arrange recruitment fairs. Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary are some of the countries where Finnish employers have attended fairs.
“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.
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 places 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 recognised 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!
10 steps to working and living in Finland
By Salla Korpela, updated October 2015