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Helsinki Mayor: English could be the capital's language

Juhana Vartiainen (NCP) told Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday that Helsinki could declare itself an English-speaking city.

Helsingin pormestari Juhana Vartiainen
Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen (NCP) has suggested abandoning Finnish and Swedish language requirements for city workers in an effort to draw international people to the city.

Finland is not doing enough to recruit international professionals, according to Vartiainen, who suggested relaxing Finnish and Swedish language requirements to make the city more appealing to foreign experts.

"Helsinki could call itself an English-speaking city, where people who speak English wouldn't need to speak Finnish or Swedish," he said, referring to public sector jobs requiring knowledge of both languages.

Some 36 percent of foreign students in Finland who graduated in 2018 left the country within a year of finishing their studies.

"This is a terrible failure of Finland," he said. Politicians are still very slowly starting to absorb the fact that we need labour-based migration," he exclaimed.

The mayor noted that when he applied to become the director of the VATT Institute for Economic Research after working in Sweden, he was asked to produce evidence of sufficient knowledge of Finnish.

To attract more people, Vartiainen suggested Helsinki expanding its English-language primary education and preschools.

He told HS that Finland's combination of free higher education and high taxation easily contributes to a situation where foreigners pocket their degrees and move to lower taxation countries to start their careers.

"But these are matters decided at the national level that Helsinki can't influence," he added.

He also noted that the climate crisis may contribute to making Helsinki more attractive to people in other parts of the world.

"The heat and floods caused by climate change—and even terrorism—can pique foreign experts' interest in Finalnd. This would favour Helsinki," he told HS.

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