Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen has come out in agreement with Finns Party chair Jussi Halla-aho, who says Finland has fared poorly in terms of integrating immigrants into the local job market.
Speaking on Yle’s A-studio discussion programme Tuesday evening, immigration hardliner Halla-aho said that Finland trails behind countries in Western Europe in terms of the success of its integration policies, particularly with respect to newcomers from outside the EU and European Economic Area, EEA.
”In many key immigrant groups who have come here for different reasons the employment rate is below 20 percent,” Halla-aho noted.
He urged the government to invest greater effort in getting migrants already in Finland into jobs.
”Instead of welcoming more,” he added.
Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen said he agreed with Halla-aho on the need to find ways to employ immigrants already in the country.
“Integration policies in Finland make people too passive and we have to make it work. The system should be stricter,” Mykkänen added.
Emphasis on work-based immigration
However he noted that over the last two years, the government had steered immigration policy toward work-based migration.
“The start-up permit [and] student and research visas have eased [the situation] and have also attempted to ease the process for work-based applicants,” the minister pointed out
Mykkänen had previously clashed with Halla-aho over the latter’s calls for Finland to significantly tighten its policies with respect to allowing work-based migration from outside of the EU and EEA.
The head of the populist party continued calls to limit such immigration to inside the EU.
“We already have 500 million people inside the open labour market in the EU. If we can’t even attract skilled workers from elsewhere in Europe, it is rather naive to think that opening the doors would lead to a flood of skilled workers from the rest of the world rather than cheap labour that would depress wages,” Halla-aho argued.
Mykkänen countered that work-based immigration would work to Finland’s benefit. He noted that during the past five years, some 30,000 people entered the country on work visas. He added that 90 percent of them are currently at work.
“If that 30,000 were cut by say, one-third as a result of stricter policies, Finns would be in a more difficult position than they are now in terms of their own employment prospects and funding of services ,” Mykkänen concluded.