Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, attended an election debate organised by MTV in Helsinki on 15 March 2023. Purra on Tuesday claimed, citing discussions with nursing associations, that nurses with insufficient Finnish skills are an “additional burden” that is driving employees away from the nursing sector. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)


SILJA PAAVOLA, the chairperson of the Finnish Union of Practical Nurses (Super), has rejected the claim that employees with inadequate Finnish skills are a burden that is driving professionals away from the nursing sector.

“That isn’t true,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday. “If we didn’t have these people, workplaces would have even fewer employees and we’d be in an even worse situation. And that’d drive people away.”

Helsingin Sanomat asked Paavola about the issue following what was widely described as a shouting match between Riikka Purra, the chairperson of the Finns Party, and Sanna Marin, the chairperson of the Social Democrats, during an election debate organised by Ilta-Sanomat on Tuesday.

Purra stated during the debate that her discussions with nursing associations indicate that nurses with insufficient language skills are an “additional burden” that is contributing to the flight of professionals from the nursing sector.

“We should go about this more smartly. They should have the necessary language skills when they enter the country,” she said, before being interjected by Marin.

“This isn’t true. These are false claims,” the premier shouted. “I’ve talked to nursing associations. They’re in favour of us bringing more folk here from other parts of the world to work in the nursing industry. This is sheer populism. I don’t know who you’ve talked to – I’ve talked to the associations.”

“I didn’t get the chance to answer,” stated Purra.

While Paavola rejected the characterisation of foreign employees as an additional burden, she confirmed that insufficient language skills have created problems and that the trade union has drawn attention to the language skills of nurses recruited from abroad. She told that the current legislation enables employers to determine whether employees have sufficient language skills and encouraged the state to make additional investments and adopt a longer-term approach to language instruction.

“The question is how can we get the nurses who come here to stay in Finland,” she said to Helsingin Sanomat.

“If that’s the goal, the state should do more to offer them a genuine opportunity to learn the language. You can’t continue working in any industry if you don’t know the country’s language,” commented Paavola.

She clarified that the skills need not be perfect as long as they are clear.

Paavola also told that the nursing industry employs many people with poor Finnish skills. Some Filipino nurses leave the country after their employment contract runs out after possibly living with their compatriots and failing to pick up the language.

“Language is absolutely critical. We should learn from what’s been done in Norway, for instance,” she said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT