Sunday, June 23, 2024

Finland: The fight over immigration

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Finland’s industry leaders are reacting with dismay to new and far-reaching anti-immigration policies from Prime Minister Antti Petteri-Orpo’s new conservative right-wing government.

Business leaders fear that restrictive labor policies will significantly curb technology companies’ ability to hire foreign talent. IT industry leaders fear the proposed restrictions could curb economic growth and damage Finland’s global reputation as an open and progressive Nordic nation within the EU.

When Olpo formed a government in June 2023, it included the anti-EU, anti-immigration far-right Finland Party. The result has been a seismic shift in which labor policies and immigration laws have been tightened, while general negative attitudes toward the employment of foreign workers have increased.

The government plans to add a Finnish language proficiency test to the eligibility requirements for work visas. Rather than “importing” talent, the government is also exploring domestic solutions in favor of increased national investment to supply domestic IT talent.

“It is unfortunate that issues surrounding the government’s immigration policy have damaged Finland’s global image.Finland has traditionally been active in hiring foreign talent to increase the international potential of its companies and the economy itself. The negative publicity from these controversies is negative and difficult to repair,” said Jakko Hilbora, chief executive of the Finnish Federation of Technology Industries (FFTI).

The Olpo government claims that the new immigration policy is primarily aimed at restricting unskilled workers’ access to the Finnish labor market. But FFTI and other business groups say the planned cuts will universally impact companies’ ability to hire skilled and unskilled workers.

“There is a growing need for skilled foreign workers in Finland. More than 40% of companies are finding it difficult to recruit the skills they need,” Hilbora says. “We have to develop our country’s image in a way that does not hinder the influx of foreign workers.” Rikka Pakarinen, leader of the technology-focused Finnish Startup Community (FSC) is concerned that the government’s “xenophobic” labor policies could undermine decades of work by previous Finnish governments. “They are silently supporting racism in new immigration policies and openly showing hostility towards foreigners,” Pakarinen said. “This is a completely inexplicable and intolerable situation, and I am simply embarrassed and speechless.”

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