The history of migration in Finland is relatively short. In the early 20th century a large number of Finns emigrated to the United States. later, in the 1960’s thousands of Finnish emigrated to Sweden in search for jobs. Compared to emigration, immigration to Finland is a recent phenomenon.
Even though we still today recognize the names of successful immigrants such as Finlayson, Fazer and Paulig, they have largely remained an exception. It was only in the 1990’s that immigration to Finland really started, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The political discussion about migration in Parliament revolves mainly around asylum policy, refuges and their integration, participation rate in societal function and social benefits. The debate is very polarized, with two opposing sides having radically different views on migration. The discussion is dominated by the True Finns Party, who have a very critical approach to migration. The Greens on the other hand advocate that Finland should have an immigration policy with no restrictions.
In the middle of this debate are traditional parties, like mine, the National Coalition Party. It is sometimes difficult to make our voice heard in the shouting match between the Greens and the True Finns. We have a strong commitment to human rights and international agreements. We advocate a practical approach to migration. We have an obligation to help those need of international protection. It is also a fact that Finland has a quickly ageing population and we cannot survive without the input of foreigners.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed labour markets all over the world. Prior to the pandemic, the lack of labour was one of the biggest challenges for growing Finnish companies. The pandemic has had a negative impact on the labour market, but the need for foreign professionals is real, in particular in the health care sector, ICT and agriculture. By 2030 the Finnish labour force will be 170 000 people less than it is today, which only accentuates the need for labour migration.
This is evident in a sector that I see as very important: care for the elderly. The only way we can guarantee that our elderly are properly taken care of is through large-scale, efficient and organized labour migration to Finland. The National Coalition Party therefore proposes that Finland signs a bilateral agreement with the Philippines, to attract nurses to Finland. Germany has also signed this kind of agreement.
The Finnish high-tech sector is also in urgent need of foreign talents. The National Coalition Party proposes a “Good employer certificate”, which is awarded to companies for good standards and in return can get permits for their employees in two weeks’ time. We strongly oppose illegal employment practices and therefore we demand more resources for inspections of employers.
Finnish universities are world-renowned. A number of students from outside the EU/EEA area receive first-class education in Finland. We would like them to stay in Finland after their degree. The National Coalition Party proposes that all foreign students be awarded a permanent residence permit. We further suggest that after they have gotten employed, the foreign students may receive tax cuts to compensate for their tuition fees.
It is of utmost importance that Finland has a migration policy which makes Finland an attractive place to study, work and live. This is a common issue, where everyone comes out as a winner if done correctly.
Arto Olavi Satonen is a Finnish politician and a member of the Finnish Parliament, representing the National Coalition Party. He was first elected to the Parliament in the 2003 parliamentary election.
This article was written for MP Talk, a regular column from the Helsinki Times in which Members of The Finnish Parliament contribute their thoughts and opinions. All opinions voiced are entirely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of the Helsinki Times.
The articles will be published in order of arrival.