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Finland sees influx of returnees

In an effort to shelter from the virus, Finns living abroad are returning to their old home country.

Emilia Campbell ja koira Charlie keinuvat kotipihallaan Tuusulassa
Emilia Campbell, who speaks English and French, is brushing up on Finnish after moving from Switzerland to her mother's hometown area in Tuusula. Image: Terhi Liimu / Yle

Finns returning from abroad make up nearly 40 percent of new Helsinki residents so far this year, figures from Statistics Finland show.

Nurmijärvi, Savonlinna, Sipoo, Kirkkonummi, Jämsä and Järvenpää are experiencing the greatest percentage point increase of Finnish returnees. In some of these areas the number of new residents doubled or tripled this spring and summer compared to the previous year.

While most returnees have opted to settle down in the capital region, the number of new residents in the area hasn’t increased in comparison to 2019 as other forms of immigration are down. Numbers compiled by Finland’s number cruncher indicate that while immigration has slowed since the coronavirus crisis began, the number of Finns moving back to the country is growing.

"Many returnees initially move to a family cabin or stay with relatives. Those able to work remotely can then move to Helsinki or other larger cities," Timo Aro, a population researcher, told Yle.

The All Points North podcast explored the idea of Finland becoming a haven for remote workers during the pandemic. You can listen to that episode on the embedded player here or via Yle Areena, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or your usual podcast player.

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Audio: Yle News

Returning Finns make up 40% of capital's newcomers

Between January and August 2,554 people moved to Helsinki, 1,592 of who were returnees, making Finnsh expats nearly 40 percent of new residents, up from around 30 percent in 2019.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) said the composition of newcomers has changed as the number of asylum seekers has drastically decreased during the coronavirus crisis. The capital has also seen fewer foreign students than it usually does.

In total, some 19,300 people moved to Finland between January and August, with returnees numbering around 6,500.

Aro said Finland should make an effort to ensure returnees--who are mostly working age--will want to stay in the country long term.

"Finland should take care of working age, highly educated returnees and their children," Aro said, adding that their integration into society hinges on them finding jobs and their kids settling into school.

Suomi Seura, an interest group for expatriate Finns, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment are currently working together to ease the transition of returnees into Finnish work life.

Aro said Finland’s brain drain has worsened every year since 2010, with the phenomenon particularly acute among advanced degree holders.

"If we can stem this drain, that’s naturally a positive thing," he said.

Suomi-Seura meanwhile said there are indications that the flow of returnees will continue to gather pace.

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