The leader of the opposition National Coalition Party (NCP), Petteri Orpo, has called for more foreign workers to meet the labour shortage in many sectors of the Finnish economy.
Interviewed on the Yle TV1 talk show Ykkösaamu on Saturday, Orpo said that if elected to government, his party would work to slash the bureaucracy associated with work-based immigration.
In Orpo's view, the idea that the labour shortage problem can be solved without more labour immigration is a non-starter.
He argued that international labour recruitment is such an important issue that it should be centralised rather than scattered across different ministries.
"This is [now] not really anyone's clear responsibility, but instead several ministries are handling this as a sort of secondary duty. We want to collect this responsibility under one entity, because this is such a critical issue for Finland," he said.
Orpo suggested that, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, for example, could be ensure that those who want to work in Finland can quickly have deal with paperwork. He noted that there is a tremendous amount of red tape associated with work-related immigration.
"Simply put, it's almost impossible to get to Finland, at least quickly," he said.
The NCP chair pointed out that there is fierce competition for international experts and that Finland must assure it is an attractive option.
Accuses Saarikko of "false little trick"
Orpo also criticised Finance Minister Annika Saarikko for her comments on a possible income tax cut.
"I see this as a false little trick," Orpo said. "She suggested tax cuts on earned income in 2023 but then said in almost the next sentence that this is unlikely to be accepted by her government partners."
He pointed out that Saarikko's first budget proposal will be debated in Parliament next week, and that it does not include a word about reducing income taxes.
In a speech to the Central Chamber of Commerce last week, Finance Minister and Centre Party chair Saarikko suggested that income taxes could be lowered during this legislative term – a measure traditionally sought by the pro-business National Coalition Party.
The NCP has been leading public opinion polls in recent months. In Parliament, it is tied with the other main opposition bloc, the Finns Party, as the second-largest party. They each have 38 seats, just behind Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Social Democratic Party, which has 40. Saarikko's Centre is the fourth major party with 31 seats.
Orpo was finance minister in 2016–19 after previous stints as interior minister and agriculture minister.