Four years ago, people of foreign descent made up 30 percent of drivers employed by the city of Helsinki. This number has now risen to 47 percent.
Estonians are the most highly represented national group among the multicultural set, which comprises some 40 nationalities, according to Human Resources Director Jussi Mertanen at Helsingin Bussiliikenne (Helsinki bus traffic).
“Almost every one of them has previous experience in driving buses elsewhere in the world,” Mertanen says. “Many have driven in far bigger cities than Helsinki.”
Meanwhile it’s difficult to tempt native-born Finns to grab the wheel—factors such as irregular shift work and poor job image are partially to blame, says shop steward Marko Jouppila.
Last year nearly 30 violent incidents occurred in buses. In the most serious of these cases, in February 2011, a 36-year-old driver sustained permanent brain damage.
This year the amount of violence has clearly gone down, says Mertanen.
“There have been only two incidents this year in which someone raised a hand at the driver. Then there’s been this insulting kind of behaviour, and it feels as if it has become more common recent times,” Mertanen says.