News |

Crisis-hit southern Europeans try their luck in Finland

Entire families are now moving to Finland from Greece, along with young singles from Spain, Italy and Portugal. Fewer of the newcomers have previous ties to Finland.

Permanent migration to Finland
Image: Yle

Last year saw an all-time record in immigration to Finland from Mediterranean countries, even if the new arrivals can still be counted in the hundreds. Exact statistics are unavailable, though.

“Whereas in the past a Greek man would typically move here with a Finnish wife, nowadays both husbands and wives tend to be Greek,” says Miltos Ioannidis, chair of the Greek-Finnish association Suomen Helleenit.

Miltos Ioannidis ja Akis Staboulis
Greek Finns Miltos Ioannidis and Akis Staboulis on Yle's breakfast show. Image: Yle

The same phenomenon is true among Italians and Spaniards in this country. Those moving to Finland now tend to be better educated and lack previous links to Finland.

Spaniards fare better

Young singles from Italy and Spain are moving here in search of work, with Spaniards tending to do slightly better due to language skills and higher education. Finnish companies are also recruiting nurses and engineers in Spain.

Many Italians come to Finland to try their luck, particularly in the restaurant business. Some stay, others don’t. For Greeks, moving north is usually a long-term project.

“Even about three years ago, many Greeks here thought about returning there someday. Now nobody talks about that anymore,” says Ioannidis, who works as an upper comprehensive school gym teacher.

Magnet schools

“The main reason we came here was the school system,” says Elsa Vasilopoulou, a former sound technician who is now studying nursing. Her husband, Panos Toledos, is an engineer who started work here in a hazardous job – cleaning snow off rooftops.

The eurozone crisis also seems to have accelerated immigration from Portugal. However there are no precise figures as some EU citizens do not register officially when moving to another member state. And some EU immigrants are Finns who have lived abroad for years. Others, particularly from Eastern European EU states, come here for a few months at a time without establishing a residence or applying for jobs here.

Net immigration is clearly on the rise, though, with more people moving here from Italy and Spain, for instance, than Finns heading south to those countries.


Latest in: News


Our picks