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OECD: Immigrants pay their own way, and more

The OECD's new International Migration Outlook 2013 backs up what earlier studies have shown: immigration has more positive than negative economic effects. In Finland, immigrants contribute more money to national and local governments than they use in public services.

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Image: Timo Heikura / Yle

The OECD report notes that the immigrant population in Finland is younger than the population at large, with more future years ahead in the labour market. Many are well educated.

Immigrants contribute more revenue to the Finnish state and municipalities than they cost in health and social services. The OECD calculates that immigrants pay taxes and social security contributions exceeding the costs of the services they use.

The OECD's International Migration Outlook 2013 examines international migration and its economic impacts in 27 countries. The data covers the years 2007-2009, so the effects of the latest economic crisis are not seen in full.

A degree not enough

Each country is different when viewed from the perspective of the nature of immigration and the type of immigrants it draws. Among the Nordic countries, for example, immigrants primarily move to Norway to work, while Sweden has granted large numbers of people the right of residence on humanitarian grounds.

"Resident permits in Finland are weighted towards study and family reasons," says Kristina Stenman, Director at the Migration Department of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

Many foreigners who study in Finland would like to stay in the country once they complete their degrees. In principle, at least, the state encourages them to do so.

"The problem is that even though they may have a degree from Finland, they do not necessarily have national language skills when they get the degree," Stenman points out.

This then often makes employment difficult. Immigration strategy, she says, should consider how foreign students can be offered better opportunities to learn Finnish and Swedish.

Citizen, but still immigrant

Formally, the term immigrant is no longer applicable once one takes citizenship.

"In practice, members of minorities of obvious immigrant origin carry the label for a long time. Their children may face discrimination and they have difficulties in gaining employment," says Kristina Stenman.

Many immigrants become entrepreneurs. For some it is a matter of necessity, but not for all.

"Entrepreneurship is common for many immigrants in their own societies. It can be an alternative to unemployment. For many, however, it is their own choice of how to earn a living and be a part of this society," Stenman explains.

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