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Union report: Migrants suffer lower pay, prejudice, discrimination in Finland

Finnish recruiters and employers need to recognise and appreciate foreign qualifications and work experience, the TEK report recommended.

File photo of a technology sector worker. Image: Ilmari Fabritius / Yle
Yle News

A report out on Thursday says that foreigners in Finland's labour market face prejudice, unnecessary language requirements, discrimination, lack of recognition of their qualifications and lower pay than their Finnish counterparts.

Engineering union TEK commissioned the report, which found several faults with employers.

"Many of the disadvantages they face derive directly from discrimination and prejudice in recruitment practices and hiring on the part of employers," the report stated.

TEK launched the study earlier this year in an attempt to discover the reasons behind the relatively high unemployment rate among people of foreign background. In June this year, 27.5 percent of immigrants living permanently in Finland were unemployed, compared to a total unemployment rate of just 7.1 percent in July.

The report (siirryt toiseen palveluun) found that some of the reasons behind the high unemployment rate for people with immigrant backgrounds, especially in the technology sector, included a requirement among employers for "fluent" Finnish language skills, a lack of recognition of foreign skills and qualifications, and Finnish bureaucracy.

Fluent Finnish used as "excuse"

With regard to the issue of fluent Finnish language skills, the report queried why this was such an important requirement for employers, especially as fluency is a "highly subjective" benchmark.

"It often feels like "fluent Finnish" is just an excuse not to employ internationals," researcher Patricia Virsinger said. "Very often A2 or B1 level would be perfectly sufficient to do the job, versus native level, which is C2."

The report recommended that recruiters and employers re-evaluate this requirement and determine the language skills needed for certain jobs, in particular in line with the level achieved for the Finnish National Certificate of Language Proficiency YKI.

Report: Recognise foreign qualifications, work experience

The report further suggested that there needs to be a greater recognition and appreciation of foreign qualifications and work experience in Finnish society.

"The studies we examined show that immigrants are often assumed to be unskilled or that they are in need to be educated of "the Finnish way of doing work"," researcher Shannon Nichols said.

"The assumption that immigrants don’t know how to work in Finland shows the discriminatory attitudes towards immigrants and their studies or work experience outside of Finland."

This shows in migrants' pay packets, too. TEK found that "the median salary of non-Finnish nationals working in tech is lower than Finnish nationals. Finnish nationals’ median salary is 5040 euros, EU nationals’ median salary is 4440 euros, and a non-EU nationals’ median salary is 4000 euros".

TEK's Research Manager Susanna Bairoh told the All Points North podcast that many foreigners earn lower salaries than their Finnish counterparts.. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, Spotify or Apple Podcasts or on your usual podcast player using the RSS feed.

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The report also noted that many immigrants in Finland are unable to secure employment in their own profession and are forced to change career paths.

Nichols also commented on the bureaucratic barriers that immigrants face, highlighting in particular the "arduous" residence permit process.

"The bureaucratic barriers to hiring non-EU nationals should be removed and the processing time for residence permits and the income requirements for visas should be reduced," she said.

The full study can be read on the TEK website (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

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