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Ukrainians now outnumber Estonians in work-based immigration stats

Rakennustyömaalla.
One in eight construction workers in Finland is a foreigner. Image: Rafael Ben-Ari / AOP

Ukrainians are now the largest national group arriving in Finland to work, according to figures from the Finnish Immigration Service.

Two years ago Ukrainians overtook Estonians as the group most likely to arrive in Finland for work, following an increase in salaries in Estonia.

Last year more than 1,800 people moved to Finland from Ukraine for work, compared to just over 1,200 people from Estonia.

The reason is relative pay differentials. According to Statistics Estonia, the average wage in Estonia in the third quarter of 2019 was 1,397 euros per month, up 8.2 percent on the previous year.

Salaries in Finland have grown more slowly, albeit from a higher base, but they remain attractive to those moving from Ukraine where average wages are around 350 euros per month.

Minimum wages sometimes ignored

That background can make Ukrainians vulnerable to exploitation when they arrive in Finland, especially in the construction sector where more than one in eight workers is a foreigner.

Urmet Aru, an Estonian who works for the construction trade union in Finland, says that he has seen cases where Ukrainians have been paid 5-8 euros an hour.

According to the legislation, they should be paid the minimum wages laid down in collective agreements between employers and trade unions.

Posted workers also in the workforce

The current minimum for inexperienced workers is 10.73 euros per hour, rising to 16.97 euros for the most experienced builders. Supplements for overtime and weekend working should be paid on top.

In addition to those Ukrainians who move to Finland to work and arrange permanent residency, there are also posted workers in the country.

These are officially employed by companies based outside Finland but ‘posted’ to the country to work for a specific period.

Although it is difficult to estimate the precise numbers as the Immigration Service does not track these arrivals, Aru says that in the last four years more than 100,000 posted workers from various countries have worked in Finland.

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