A majority of foreign specialists would consider leaving Finland if plans contained in PM Petteri Orpo's (NCP) programme for government are brought into effect.
The survey — published on Monday and entitled "Impact of PM Orpo's government program on Finnish International Workforce" — was carried out by an organisation called 'Specialists in Finland'
The group describes itself as "a grassroots self-funded and non-partisan group of international professionals representing specialists and skilled workers with higher education or qualifications", and previously organised a protest in Helsinki in June against the government's proposed immigration policy changes.
The survey was distributed via a Google Form to immigrant groups on social media between June and August, and garnered a total of 651 responses. The poll was anonymous and did not collect information such as respondents' age, gender or country of origin.
The results revealed that the vast majority of respondents had moved to Finland within the last 5 years, and around half said they did so to take up a specialised role within a Finland-based company.
Almost all of the respondents hold an undergraduate university degree, and the majority were employed, mostly in the tech sector, and earned more than 3,500 euros per month.
Worries about three-month policy
In the survey, respondents were asked to identify the aspects of the government's programme that they considered to be "most critical".
Nearly four in five cited the government's proposal that a residence permit would be revoked if the holder is out of work for a period of three months.
One third of respondents said that they had been out of work for three months or more at some stage during their time in Finland, and noted that it is a very short period of time to find a new job.
"If this proposal had been in practice in the past, it would have affected me in various ways. I would not have had time to invest in developing my Finnish language skills and preparing for my Master’s application. This proposal would also affect innovation and creativity when it comes to building a startup (fear of being deported), attracting investment to Finland or bringing startups to Finland," one anonymous respondent wrote.
Respondents also noted the impact that Finland's weakening economic outlook would have on the prospect of attaining employment within three months.
While the three-month policy was top of immigrants' concerns, many respondents also noted the government's proposed extension of residence time required for Finnish citizenship from four years to eight years.
"The reduction in permitted absences [for residence time in citizenship] would be absurd in a way that if I need to travel for work or for compulsory exchange studies, that’s not something we can choose," one respondent wrote.
Group calls on government to "exercise caution"
The survey results revealed that about two thirds of foreigners in Finland would not have moved to the country if the government's proposed immigration policies had been in place, and the same proportion now say they would consider leaving Finland if the plans are brought into force in their current form.
The group's press release, containing the survey results, also called on the government to "exercise caution" in the design and implementation of immigration policy — noting in particular the finding that a majority of foreigners could leave Finland.
"There is a substantial risk that this phenomenon will be observed more generally among international specialists in Finland, due to a perceived hostile policy environment," the press release stated.
The group further urged the government to change or extend the three-month out-of-work policy, and to drop its plans to extend the residence period before a person can apply for citizenship.
"The government should consider adjusting the program such that they do not make permanent settlement unnecessarily difficult or unattractive. In particular, where changes are made, they should incentivize and reward efforts to integrate and participate in the labour market," the statement said.
A study carried out earlier this year by the Etla Economic Research Institute noted that Finland would need to triple its net migration figure every year for the next decade to plug the ever-widening ratio gap between working-age people and dependents.
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