In addition to companies, increasing numbers of private individuals are recruiting cleaners and household help directly from abroad. Wages and conditions are often substandard.
Human trafficking became a crime in Finland seven years ago. It is estimated that since then there may have been several hundred victims of trafficking in the country annually.
According to Venla Roth, Chief Inspector Office at the Ombudsman for Minorities, signs of human trafficking include long working days at almost no pay. She says that there have been cases in which workers have been beaten after asking an employer for wages.
The number of cases of exploitation is only an estimate, as only a fraction is thought to come to light. An organization to help the victims of human trafficking, set up several years ago, has 60 foreign workers in its registry. About half of them have experienced exploitation, most in the cleaning and household services sectors.
"This is clearly a vulnerable field, open to this kind of abuse. Cleaning takes place, for example, in homes where the authorities have very limited access. Additionally, work is carried out at a time of day when there is no one around to witness the exploitation," Roth notes.
Increase in work permits
Finnish Immigration Service statistics show that the number of work permits granted for cleaning and household jobs is on the rise. Small firms, in particular, bring in workers from abroad, but increasing numbers of private individuals are recruiting cleaners and household help directly from abroad. Wages and conditions are often substandard. The largest number of workers recruited for household chores are from the Philippines.
Venla Roth says that workers who pay substantial sums to foreign employment agencies in order to get jobs in Finland are especially susceptible to exploitation.
Natalie Gerbert, who directions the Resource Centre of the Monika – Multicultural Women’s Association believes that many foreign workers are reluctant to deal with the authorities, fearing that it will further complicate their lives. She says that only around 20%-30% of her clients want to get involved with help and support systems.