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Report: Finland needs more migrant businesses

A new report suggests that Finland is missing a trick in encouraging business development among migrants and foreigners. The Magma think tank suggests that entrepreneurship be taught at an early stage in the integration process.

Abdul Halim Iman perusti oman parturi-kampaamon Helsingin Punavuoreen.
Iman Abdul Halim established her own hairdressing business in Helsinki's Punavuori district. Image: Tuomas Keränen / Yle

Is Finland is doing enough to encourage entrepreneurship among migrants? That's the question posed by the fresh ‘As an entrepreneur in Finland’ report from the Magma think tank, which looked at businesses run by foreigners and migrants in Finland.

James Perkins, who runs a consultancy offering Finnish firms inter-cultural training, says that there's nothing to be afraid of in running your own company.

“Really it's not a plan B to go and start your own business, it's really giving you more freedom in a way,” says Perkins. “But it does take time, and it is tough in the beginning, I don't deny that at all. But that's everywhere, not just Finland.”

Magma says that Finland could do more to harness this enthusiasm. The think tank says that migrant-run firms in Sweden employ more than 200,000 people, but in Finland that figure is just 10,000. Researchers blame the lack of support structures for new businesses.

“We still don’t have Swedish-style immigrant services, funded by the taxpayer offering migrant entrepreneurs support in their own languages,” says Katja Bloigu, who wrote the report.

Bloigu suggests more emphasis on entrepreneurship in official integration programmes, and expanded language training for new arrivals. If that comes off, there could be a more international flavour to the Finnish economy in years to come.

“Many people are entrepreneurially-minded and want to help themselves rather than wait for the state to support them,” says Bloigu. “During the research I heard many times that it is not good to sit at home. Many businesspeople feel that Finland pays people to sit at home, and find that strange.”

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