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STT: Finland needs 20,000 foreign health and social care workers, but few have arrived lately

According to the employment ministry, Finland needs 200,000 new health and social care workers by 2030, with at least 10 percent of them to be recruited from abroad.

Rey Salvador, who has a nursing degree from the Philippines, works as a practical nurse in Haukipudas, near Oulu (file photo from 2020). Image: Juha Virranniemi / Yle
Yle News

Foreign nurses have been proposed as a solution to the nursing shortage, but only five of the 20 hospital districts in mainland Finland have recruited nursing staff from abroad in the past year, reports the Finnish News Agency STT. 

The numbers of nurses hired have been relatively small, ranging from a few people to a few dozen.

Decisions regarding next year have been postponed due to the handover of power to the new wellbeing services counties, which will be responsible for organising social and health services from the beginning of 2023 as part of the sote reform.

This year the largest number of foreign nurses have arrived in the Päijät-Häme district of south-central Finland. Around 50 Filipino nurses have been hired this year for the area, which includes the city of Lahti. More nurses from the Philippines are scheduled to arrive in the Päijät-Häme wellbeing services county next spring. 

In eastern Finland, the South Savo social and health services municipal consortium Essote has also hired nursing staff from the Philippines.

Also in eastern Finland, the North Karelia social and health services organisation has hired 46 people from Myanmar "with nursing background" to work in eldercare services. They are training as practical nurses under apprenticeship contracts after initial studies in the Finnish language and basic nursing qualifications in Singapore.

Decisions put off pending completion of 'sote' reform

Most of health and social services administrators surveyed by STT said that the recruitment of foreign caregivers has been discussed and the matter has been studied, but actual decisions will not be made until the wellbeing services counties are up and running.

The numbers announced by the hospital districts are small compared to the fact that, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, 200,000 new employees will be needed in the health and social care sector by 2030. 

At least 10 percent of this amount is to be covered by international recruitments, said Katri Niskanen, a chief specialist at the ministry.

The ministry does not have accurate information on how many foreign nurses have recently come to Finland, or may be on their way. Employers are not required to report recruitments from abroad, said Niskanen.

Only 62 third-country caregivers licensed since 2020

STT asked the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) for information on licensing decisions made in the 2020s for health and social caregivers trained outside the EU-EEA area. Since 2020, Valvira has certified 59 nurses and three radiology nurses who were trained in so-called third countries. The process has understandably been slowed by the pandemic and travel restrictions.

The European Economic Area (EEA) includes all 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. These three are also part of the European Free Trade Association along with Switzerland.

"In practice, all those who have trained as nurses or radiology nurses outside the EU-EEA area supplement their previous education with additional studies in Finland according to Valvira's specifications, so that their qualifications correspond to Finnish education," explained Jenni Kangas, a senior official at Valvira.

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