Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko (Centre) has stated that more foreign workers will be required as the number of older people requiring care increases and working-age population shrinks in Finland (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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MINISTER OF FINANCE Annika Saarikko (Centre) says Finland needs plenty of new employees from abroad as the number of elderly people requiring care continues increasing, age groups becoming smaller and the working-age population shrinking.

It has been estimated that the social and health care industry alone will need 30,000 new employees by the end of the decade.

“It isn’t taking anything away from the employment of Finns. Both are needed,” Saarikko stressed to YLE on Tuesday.

She reminded that work-based immigration could improve the employment situation and generate economic growth in Finland. The country, she viewed, needs not only so-called special experts but also blue-collar workers.

“It’s a fact that Finland’s agriculture, primary production, social and health care sector or public transport in the capital region, for example, wouldn’t be running today without workforce coming from other parts of the world,” she pointed out.

While numerous policy-makers have drawn attention to the importance of work-based immigration in recent years, the number of people moving to the country has not increased significantly – in part due to inflexible and painstaking permit procedures. Saarikko acknowledged that bureaucracy is slowing down work-based immigration but also called for a shift in the attitudinal climate.

Foreign employees, she highlighted, are often at a disadvantage in the labour markets simply because of their name.

The Finnish government has adopted the goal of doubling work-based immigration by the end of the decade. With the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) granting nearly 9,500 first work permits in 2019, the goal would necessitate an increase of 10,000 in the number of immigrants moving to the country for work.

The goal is one of the most important employment-related goals of the government, with an impact comparable to that of promoting lifelong learning and moving employment services to municipalities.

The government has outlined a number of measures to promote work-based immigration, including expediting the permit process. It is expected to propose this year that the post-graduation residence permits of students be extended to two years, according to the public broadcasting company.

Saarikko called attention to the importance of providing work for foreign students graduating in Finland.

“It’s critical for us whether these kind of people want and are able to stay and utilise their expertise in Finland. Internships during studies are a key question there,” she viewed.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT