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OECD blames Finland’s home care allowance for poor integration of immigrant women, children

The home care benefit encourages mums and kids to stay at home, preventing mothers from finding work and children from learning Finnish, says the OECD.

Äiti ja lapsi Punkalaitumen vastaanottokeskuksessa
The OECD says Finland needs to do more to better integrate immigrant women and children. Image: Antti Eintola / Yle

Immigrant women in Finland have had difficulty integrating into Finland according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD.

In the analysis released on Wednesday, the economic organisation said that early integration efforts in Finland have failed to sufficiently activate immigrants, as a result of which they are increasingly excluded from labour markets and become passive.

The organisation cited Finland’s system of home care allowances for stay-at-home parents as a major factor as an obstacle to women seeking employment. It asserted that the financial support induces women to remain in the home to take care of children instead of looking for work.

According to the OECD, it is unusual to see such a clear distinction between active and passive migrants among its 36 member countries.

It urged Finland to revisit the home care allowance as a financial benefit and to rethink its early-stage integration programmes.

"Policies should be implemented to do more to support the early integration of immigrant women," OECD deputy secretary general Mari Kiviniemi said in a statement on Wednesday.

The report also called on Finland to provide more support for immigrants to find employment.

Children’s integration also affected

According to the OECD, staying at home also affects the integration of immigrant children into Finnish society.

It noted that children cared for at home, entering early childhood education programmes later, do not learn Finnish at a young age and as a result do not perform as well in school as their peers.

The body added that poor education outcomes among immigrant children were also evident in other OECD countries. But it said that in the Finland, the disparity is striking. It pointed out that in mathematics, immigrant children are nearly two years behind children with Finnish parents.

The report recommended that educators should attempt to identify children’s language and learning difficulties and to resolve them at an early age to prevent further deterioration.

Finland should aim to ensure that more migrant children between the ages of three and four are able to participate in early childhood education programmes, the report added.

Government aware of problem since 2015

Writing in his blog following the release of the report, Labour Minister Jari Lindström said that the administration had been aware of low employment rates among immigrant women since 2015, when some 30,000 asylum seekers arrived in Finland.

He admitted that Finland performed poorly in the OECD evaluation in terms of employment rates among immigrants – particularly women – and scholastic aptitude from the biennial PISA global ranking, compared to native Finns.

Lindström said that Finland now has to consider whether there are other structures that are different from in other OECD countries that are preventing integration.

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