A job seeker at the information counter of a TE Office in Pasila, Helsinki, on 16 March 2023. Researchers from Aalto University and VATT Institute for Economic Research have discovered that, in Finland, the employment rate for work-based immigrants decreases after the first few years but remains at or above the rate for the native-born population. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE EMPLOYMENT RATE of non-EU citizens who move to Finland for work decreases after the first couple of years but does not drop below the rate of native-born Finns, reveals a study commissioned by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The study also found that people who move to the country for work continue to pay more taxes than they receive in income transfers even after a 10-year stay.

Carried out by Matti Sarvimäki from Aalto University and Hanna Pesola and Tuomo Virkola from VATT Institute for Economic Research, the study is the first attempt to produce insights by combining data from Statistics Finland and the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

Helsingin Sanomat on Monday reminded that the benefits of work-based immigration have been the subject of much political debate in recent years. The Finns Party, for example, has argued based on surveys by an affiliated think tank that the employment rate of people who move to Finland from outside the EU drops soon after their arrival, typically leaving them to live on benefits.

The new study questions the claim, the newspaper wrote on Monday.

It found that although people who move to the country as so-called specialists fare the best in the labour market, also people holding a residence permit for an employed person remain net tax contributors after a 10-year stay. The ratio between tax contributions and income transfers, in fact, is similar among such people and the native-born population.

The researchers also examined employment among people moving to reunite with their family or receive international protection.

Although employment among these groups is initially noticeably low, it edges closer to the employment rate of the native-born and work-based immigrant populations over time. After a 10-year stay, the employment rate of work-based immigrants and EU citizens is roughly 80 per cent, that of people who moved for family or study-related reasons roughly 70 per cent and that of the international protection recipients roughly 60 per cent.

There are significant differences in income levels, though, with international protection recipients earning less than half of work-based immigrants after 10 years in Finland.

The researchers also called attention to a factor that may be “surprising” to some debaters: study-based immigrants do not reach the income level of their average native-born peer even though they typically study in higher education and live in the most vital regions of Finland.

They emphasised that the study is not intended to be an assessment of immigration policy outcomes but simply to inject facts to the debate.

“Migri granting researchers access to its register data opens up significant new opportunities to evaluate and develop immigration policy. Preferably, the conclusions of this report are regarded as scratching the surface of the information these data can produce in time,” the trio said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT