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Finland to amend Aliens Act to stop foreign worker exploitation

Foreigners working in restaurants, construction, along with food couriers and seasonal workers are at risk of exploitation.

Kuvassa on rakennustyöläisiä Helsingin keskustassa lokakuussa 2020.
Yle published a report on the widespread exploitation of foreign construction workers in Finland in September. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Finland's government is proposing amendments to the Aliens Act that aim to prevent the exploitation of foreign labour more effectively.

Among other things, the government proposes that a worker's residence permit could be refused if there is reason to suspect that the purpose of the employer is to circumvent provisions on entry or residence.

The proposal will not affect a foreigner's chances of obtaining a residence permit from another employer.

The proposed changes also aim to improve the position of the victim of exploitation. For instance, a victim could be granted the right to work without restrictions on sector as contained in their permit.

In addition, the individual would be entitled to a new temporary residence permit to look for a new job.

"The purpose of the measures is to make the position of the abuser more difficult and to offer protection to the victim," Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen (SDP) said in a press release.

According to Haatainen more actions to clamp down on workplace exploitation are in the works.

Workers in restaurants, construction, agriculture at risk

The issue hit the headlines last year when daily Helsingin Sanomat published a report on the working conditions of Nepalese restaurant employees.

Haatainen set up a working group in the spring to prepare measures to combat the exploitation of foreign workers and published a preliminary list of proposals in August.

According to the working group, foreigners working in restaurants, construction, the cleaning sector, and shipyards, along with food couriers and seasonal agricultural workers are at risk of exploitation.

In September, PM Marin (SDP) reacted to an Yle report on the widespread exploitation of foreign construction workers in Finland.

"All means to end such an exploitative economy must be sought and used" Marin had tweeted.

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