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EK: Finland must increase immigration

Finns still haven't woken up to looming workforce shortages and the pressing need to attract more immigrants, according to the Confederation of Finnish Industries (the EK). It's trying to push what it sees as a critical issue higher on the Finnish agenda.

EK:n johtaja Jussi Mustonen
Economist Jussi Mustonen. Image: Yle

At present unemployment and general economic woes are stealing the limelight. Yet according to the Confederation of Finnish industries these problems pale in comparison with the detrimental effects if Finns continue to be blasé about the large number of workers who’ll be retiring in coming years.

The Ministry of Finance, which plans widespread structural reforms to retirement and the pension system, also says immigrants are needed, and fast.

"It demands sacrifice now..."

Chief economist for the EK, Jussi Mustonen, thinks that Finns will more fully wake up to the problems of an aging population and en masse retirement in about a year, but that we should be already be paying more attention to the issue.

“When we go a little further forward in time, the scarcity of labour will lower our standard of living and restrict opportunities for growth,” says Mustonen. “It demands a bit of sacrifice now, in terms of the standard of living that we’re currently accustomed to.”

The economist says that in 2014 the majority of Finns are not ready to accept widespread structural changes in society, but in a year's time we'll already be on the brink of crisis. It's then that the changes will begin.

Ilkka Kajaste, deputy head of the Finance Ministry also says the impending retirement bomb is no laughing matter. It's  long been recognised as something that will hit the country fast and hard – a double-edged sword of less workers and increased spending on health care.

Averting disaster

Kajaste believes, however, that it is possible to alleviate the situation through good management.

“Ten years ago, Germany was the ailing man of Europe. Now Germany is an example to others and it was in rather large part due to structural reforms carried out in Germany,” he says.

The central organisation of Finnish trade unions doesn't think immigration is the solution. It's concerned that following the EK's recommendations would lead to two labour markets.

In turn, the EK argues that Finland’s own growth is not enough to generate a quick solution. Immigration is sorely needed, it says, because today’s newborns won’t be entering the workforce for another twenty years.

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