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Wednesday’s papers: Civics tests, migrant labour and Siberian chill

MPs propose a civics test for newcomers, the national daily explores migration policies for boosting labour supply, and a Siberian cold front lets up.

Maahanmuuttaja opettelee lukemaan ja kirjoittamaan
Image: Hannu Karjalainen / Yle

Parliamentarians want all asylum seekers to pass a civics test, writes national daily Helsingin Sanomat.

Criticising current integration policy as inadequate, Parliament’s Audit Committee wants to introduce a civics exam testing asylum seekers’ knowledge of Finnish society. All parties within the committee - from the Greens to the Finns Party - supported the report’s recommendations, which comes on the heels of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment following a string of child sex abuses allegedly perpetrated by foreigners.

The report also recommends adding Finnish or Swedish language requirements to residence permits and cutting allowances from asylum seekers who opt out of training offered at reception centres.

The committee also proposed shortening waiting periods for migrants’ work permits.

Needed but not wanted?

Continuing on the theme of migration and work, Helsingin Sanomat explores how laxer immigration rules could help offset problems posed by an ageing population and dwindling birthrate. HS draws attention to policies that impede migrant workers' entry into Finland, reporting that a lack of workers is hurting industrial kitchens, construction sites and machine shops around the country.

The paper highlights how the standard hiring practice in Finland which prioritises job applicants who are EU citizens gums up the immigration process. The paper also illustrates the catch-22 posed by relatively high salary requirements for migrants arriving from outside the EU: A family with two children must net 2,600 euros per month, while a chef’s monthly gross salary totals around 2,200 euros.

Recruitment firm Barona, which brokers foreign labour into Finland, said it takes about a year for Filipino chefs to get their work permits from Finnish authorities. Labour unions have meanwhile said they're concerned that relying on cheap labour from abroad will exacerbate a two-tier worker system.

To attract highly-skilled labour the government said it hopes Finland’s work-life balance would help the country compete with the likes of Silicon Valley for 'knowledge' workers.

Siberian cold snap

The recent deep freeze loosens its grip on the country on Wednesday, but the Siberian cold front is expected to return this weekend, reports Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet.

The mercury will settle around zero in southern parts of the country on Wednesday, though the wind chill factor is giving temperatures an extra bite. In central areas temperatures will range form -5 to -10 degrees Celsius, while -20-degree weather is forecast up north.

By the weekend, thermometers in the south may dip to -15C, plummeting to -30C in Lapland.

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