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HS: Fewer Finns against immigration

A survey by Helsingin Sanomat shows that nearly half of respondents say they think Finland should take in more immigrants from abroad. Experts also weigh in on sustainable immigration figures.

Pakolaisia jonottamassa satamassa Ruotsissa.
Recessions harden attitudes, says sociologist. Image: Jens Buettner / EPA
Yle News

Fewer Finns now oppose immigration compared to figures from a few years ago, according to a survey conducted by Kantar TNS for Helsingin Sanomat, the country's most widely read paper. A total of 1,005 people took part in the questionnaire.

In 2010 just 36 percent of respondents said Finland should let more people move here from other countries. That figure is now at 47 percent.

The change in attitudes is also illustrated by the finding that while seven years ago 59 percent of respondents said they opposed immigration altogether, in 2017 only 41 percent said so.

Economic woes harden values

HS interviewed associate sociology professor Lena Näre, who specialises in questions of immigration. She says that anti-immigration sentiment tends to strengthen and spread in times of economic uncertainty, or indeed outright decline, such as the Great Recession that UN studies say began around 2007 and was felt worldwide.

"The recession was reflected in Finnish attitudes of the early 2010s," Näre says.

Another issue she raises is the ageing population. As the population shrinks, Finland now needs a new generation of working people to sustain its economy.

"Population ageing has been an issue for years. In Sweden population growth has been brisk thanks to high immigration numbers, leading to economic growth," says Näre.

The HS poll also asked respondents how much racism they felt there is in Finland. In all, some 67 percent said there is either a lot or quite a lot of racism in the country.

"Now that it's the centennial, we should be dismantling our idea of what it is to be Finnish," Näre says in HS.

100K doable, says Interior Ministry

The Interior Ministry also commissioned an immigration poll, this time for 43 administrative Ministry experts.

Respondents were asked about their views on the severity of the challenges that would accompany the immigration of 10,000, 100,000 and one million people into Finland. Experts held that resources would hold up with moderately or seriously challenging effects if some 100,000 more immigrants were to enter the country.

Responses proposing measures to alleviate infrastructural difficulties depended on the reasons behind the potential influx of many thousands more immigrants. Top potential reasons for a continued migrant crisis were nuclear devastation, climate change and political instability.

The Immigration Service reports that some 32,500 asylum seekers entered Finland in 2015. One year later that figure was at 6,000 people.

Edit: Added data from Interior Ministry poll.

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