Finland: The occupational promotion of migrant workers

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 24 March 2009



About
Country:
Finland
Author:
Noora Järnefelt
Institution:

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Work-related immigration to Finland is still small and finding any work is a major obstacle for immigrants’ integration into Finnish working life, especially for those with a refugee background. Insufficient knowledge in Finnish language, difficulties in the recognition of foreign educational qualifications, and the lack of work-related guidance given in the non-national employees’ own language can be considered as the main obstacles for the occupational development and career advancement of non-national employees in Finland. Good practices to support migrant workers’ careers are still being developed.

1. The workplace promotion of migrant workers: current evidence

The number of non-national employees in Finland is sill low, only about 35,000 persons in total in 2005, and there is very little data available on their working conditions. The statistical data reported in this section derive from the Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey in 2002, register-based statistics from the years 2003 and 2005, and from the Labour Force Surveys of 2003 and 2006. The statistics based on LFS could not be given by gender for reasons of statistical reliability.

The Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002 was carried out as face-to-face interviews, with a help of an interpreter when necessary, among Somali and Vietnamese immigrants, and as a postal survey among Russian and Estonian immigrants aged between 20 and 64. The method of data acquisition may have affected the differences in the results between these groups. Particularly in the case of questions concerning discrimination, experiences of discrimination may have been easier to report in the postal survey than in the face-to-face interview. Differences also arise from the histories of the immigrant groups and the reasons for their immigration. The employees of Russian and Estonian nationality are often of Ingrian origin (56% of Russians and 63% of Estonians), which is a Finnic ethnic group living in Russian Karelia and parts of Estonia. Many Ingrians immigrated to Finland in the 1990s, after the collapse of the former Soviet Union, and many of them had some knowledge of the Finnish language to start with. The Vietnamese and Somali immigrants have arrived mostly as refugees. First Vietnamese immigrants arrived in Finland in the 1970s, while immigrants from Somalia mostly came between 1991 and1993.

Types of contract

Table 1. Types of employment contracts of Finnish and non-national employees in 2003 and 2006, Finland.
Employees aged 15-64 years
  Type of employment contract in 2003 Type of employment contract in 2006
Nationality Permanent contract % Temporary contract % All % Permanent contract % Temporary contract % All %
             
Finnish 84 16 100 84 16 100
Other nationalities 74 26 100 73 27 100
             

Source: Finnish Labour Force Survey 2003 and 2006, annual level data.

Table 2. Types of employment contracts of migrant employees (of Russian, Estonian, Somali and Vietnamese origin) in 2002 and of Finnish employees in 2003, Finland.
Migrant employees aged 20-64, Finnish employees aged 20-64
Gender, ethnic origin Permanent contract % Temporary contract % All %
Men      
Russian 76 24 100
Estonian 87 13 100
Somali 52 48 100
Vietnamese 88 12 100
Finnish 90 10 100
       
Women      
Russian 64 36 100
Estonian 75 25 100
Somali (21) (79) (100)
Vietnamese 86 14 100
Finnish 83 17 100

Notes: There were only 14 female Somali employees in the data. The resulting uncertainty in the distribution is indicated by brackets ( ).

Source: Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002; Finnish Quality of Work Life Survey 2003

Tenure of migrant workers with same employer

Table 3. Tenure of employment with same employer of Finnish and non-national employees in 2003 and 2006, Finland
Employees aged 15-64 years
Nationality Average tenure of employment
2003 2006
     
Finnish 9 years 11 months 9 years 10 months
Other nationalities 4 years 4 months 4 years 11 months
     

Source: Finnish Labour Force Survey 2003 and 2006, annual level data.

Table 4. Tenure of employment of migrant employees aged 20-64 by ethnic origin (Russian, Estonian, Somali and Vietnamese) with same employer in 2002 and of Finnish employees in 2003, Finland
Migrant employees aged 20-64, Finnish employees aged 20-64
  Tenure of employment with same employer, years
Ethnic origin Men Women
Russian 3.9 3.8
Estonian 4.7 4.1
Somali 2.8 (2.0)
Vietnamese 5.5 6.0
Finnish 10.3 10.0

Notes: There were only 14 female Somali employees in the data. The resulting uncertainty in the distribution is indicated by brackets ( ).

Source: Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002; Finnish Quality of Work Life Survey 2003

Occupation (ISCO-88) of migrant workers

Table 5. Occupation of male employees from different nationalities in 2005 (%), Finland
Male employees aged 15-64
  Employees by nationality
Gender, occupation (ISCO-88) All employees RU EE SE SO CN DE GB USA TR TH VN
Senior officials and managers 7 3 1 7 0 2 9 1 1 0
Professionals 17 15 7 20 6 33 46 5 9 3
Technicians and associate prof. 16 10 5 12 6 20 14 4 0 2
Clerks 4 3 2 4 7 3 3 2 3 2
Service workers and sales workers 8 5 5 11 10 24 8 58 41 16
Skilled agricultural and fishery workers 1 2 8 0 0 0 0 0 4 6
Craft and related trades workers 20 26 35 19 6 1 8 7 8 26
Plant and machine operators and assemblers 16 19 24 13 11 1 4 7 12 24
Elementary occupations 8 14 10 8 47 12 5 13 20 19
Armed forces 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unknown 2 4 3 6 7 4 3 2 3 3
                     
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
N 998,774 3,145 3,378 1,809 344 444 2,461 608 76 215

Notes: Nationals of Germany, Great Britain and United States were classified into one group since the distribution of occupations was quite similar between them. The following international abbreviations were used to indicate nationality: RU = Russia, EE = Estonia, SE = Sweden, SO = Somalia, CN = China, DE = Germany, GB = Great Britain, US = United States, TR = Turkey, TH = Thailand, and VN = Vietnam.

Source: Employment Statistics 2005 (register data), Statistics Finland.

Table 6. Occupation of female employees from different nationalities in 2005 (%), Finland
Female employees aged 15-64
  Employees by nationality
Gender, occupation (ISCO-88) All employees RU EE SE SO CN DE GB USA TR TH VN
Senior officials and managers 3 1 1 3 0 1 3 0 0 1
Professionals 18 15 11 18 1 30 51 23 3 4
Technicians and associate prof. 20 12 10 14 4 21 14 8 3 2
Clerks 14 7 6 10 2 6 6 3 2 1
Service workers and sales workers 26 22 26 32 59 16 13 36 24 33
Skilled agricultural and fishery workers 1 2 7 0 1 0 0 0 4 3
Craft and related trades workers 2 3 3 1 1 1 0 3 5 4
Plant and machine operators and assemblers 4 8 7 4 25 1 3 2 15 15
Elementary occupations 10 26 25 12 6 16 5 23 41 34
Armed forces 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Unknown 2 4 4 6 6 7 5 2 4 5
                     
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
N 1,022,887 3,414 3,518 1,163 134 444 851 64 566 129

Notes: Nationals of Germany, Great Britain and United States were classified into one group since the distribution of occupations was quite similar between them. The following international abbreviations were used to indicate nationality: RU = Russia, EE = Estonia, SE = Sweden, SO = Somalia, CN = China, DE = Germany, GB = Great Britain, US = United States, TR = Turkey, TH = Thailand, and VN = Vietnam.

Source: Employment Statistics 2005 (register data), Statistics Finland.

Level of education/qualification (ISCED) of migrant workers

Table 7. Education of employees of different nationalities in 2003 (%), Finland
Employees aged 15-64
  Employees by nationality  
Gender, education All employees RU EE SE SO CN DE GB USA TR TH VN Other foreign nationalities
Men                      
Lower secondary/ unknown 21 49 68 51 62 65 56 74 84 66 61
Upper Secondary 46 30 23 31 28 2 27 19 11 29 20
Tertiary 32 21 9 18 10 33 16 7 4 5 19
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
                       
Women                      
Lower secondary/ unknown 18 35 46 42 76 53 46 63 87 74 53
Upper Secondary 41 28 33 34 22 5 17 17 9 24 21
Tertiary 41 38 21 23 2 42 37 20 4 2 26
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100

Notes: Nationals of Germany, Great Britain and United States were classified into one group since the distribution of education was quite similar between them. The following international abbreviations were used to indicate the nationality: RU = Russia, EE = Estonia, SE = Sweden, SO = Somalia, CN = China, DE = Germany, GB = Great Britain, US = United States, TR = Turkey, TH = Thailand, and VN = Vietnam.

Source: Employment Statistics 2005 (register data), Statistics Finland

Over-qualification of migrant workers

Table 8. Correspondence between job and education among four groups of non-national employees in Finland by their nationality, 2002
Migrant employees aged 15-64
Gender, nationality Job corresponds with education % Job does not correspond with education % All %
Men      
Russian 57 43 100
Estonian 57 43 100
Somali 61 39 100
Vietnamese 70 30 100
       
Women      
Russian 49 51 100
Estonian 51 49 100
Somali (79) (21) (100)
Vietnamese 50 50 100

Notes: There were only 14 female Somali employees in the data. The resulting uncertainty in the distribution is indicated by brackets ( ).

Source: Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002

The data do not exactly tell about the degree of over-qualification, but refers to general mismatch between job and education, be it related to the substance of the job or the level of the qualification required. Comparable reference data on all employees were not available. About half of the Russian and Estonian respondents whose job did not correspond with education reported that the education or qualification acquired elsewhere than in Finland was not recognised or that corresponding work was not available in Finland.

Participation of migrant workers in training by type of training

The data from the LFS on participation in training could not be used for reliability reasons and because of uncertainty in the data due to low number of non-national employees in Finland. The following table provides results from the Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002 concerning experiences of discrimination in participation in employer-funded training.

Table 9. Experiences of discrimination in participation in employer-funded training among four groups of non-national employees in Finland by their nationality, 2002
Migrant employees aged 20-64
Gender, nationality Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace in access to employer-funded training?
Yes No Difficult to say
Men      
Russian 1 80 18
Estonian 4 84 13
Somali 7 88 5
Vietnamese 7 88 5
       
Women      
Russian 5 80 15
Estonian 7 86 6
Somali (0) (93) (7)
Vietnamese 4 96 0

Notes: There were only 14 female Somali employees in the data. The resulting uncertainty in the distribution is indicated by brackets ( ).

Source: Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002

The response category “difficult to say” is particularly large among the Russian and Estonian employees, which may indicate that the respondent suspects discrimination, but to his or her mind it is perhaps not evident enough to be called ‘discrimination’.

Competence development, skill and qualification advancements of migrant workers

Unfortunately, there were no statistical data available on informal competence or skills development of migrant employees in Finland.

Career advancements

Table 10. Experiences of discrimination in career advancement opportunities among four groups of non-national employees in Finland by their nationality, 2002.
Migrant employees aged 15-64
Gender, nationality Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace in career advancement opportunities?
Yes No Difficult to say All
Men        
Russian 9 75 15 100
Estonian 15 68 16 100
Somali 16 75 9 100
Vietnamese 7 84 9 100
         
Women        
Russian 10 74 16 100
Estonian 14 74 13 100
Somali (7) (71) (21) 100
Vietnamese 7 86 7 100

Notes: There were only 14 female Somali employees in the data. The resulting uncertainty in the distribution is indicated by brackets ( ).

Source: Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002

Salary progressions of migrant workers in percentage of the basic wage, by gender (workplace average and/or individual careers). Please include reference data for all workers to appreciate existing differences.

There were no data available on the average wages of non-national employees. The following table provides results from the Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002 concerning experiences of discrimination in remuneration.

Table 11. Experiences of discrimination in remuneration among four groups of non-national employees in Finland by their nationality, 2002.
Migrant employees aged 20-64
Gender, nationality Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace in remuneration?
Yes No Difficult to say All
Men        
Russian 19 66 15 100
Estonian 17 66 17 100
Somali 9 88 4 100
Vietnamese 9 86 5 100
         
Women        
Russian 20 66 14 100
Estonian 16 75 9 100
Somali (7) (86) (7) 100
Vietnamese 4 86 11 100

Notes: There were only 14 female Somali employees in the data. The resulting uncertainty in the distribution is indicated by brackets ( ).

Source: Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002

2. Public policies for the promotion of migrant workers at the workplace

The number of immigrant non-national employees is still small in Finland, around 35,000 in 2005. The central organisations of labour market parties estimate that another 30,000 foreign employees work in Finland temporarily each year. The level of unemployment is still high among non-national immigrants, an average of 17.5% in March 2008 according to the estimate of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy and even higher among those with a refugee background.

Accordingly, public policy has focused on general integration services for immigrants as well as on supporting the immigrants in recruitment and entry to the labour markets, while less emphasis has been put on the promotion of migrant workers’ advancement in their working careers. The situation is about to change in the next few years because work-related immigration is clearly increasing and new policy programmes are being set up that are more sensitive to the needs of the immigrants who are already in working life.

Recognition of educational qualifications. The main principle is that the educational qualifications obtained in one EU/EEA country and higher education degrees obtained outside EU/EEA countries are eligible for the process of recognition. However, the fact that the education acquired in the country of origin is meant for different labour markets than in Finland and the qualifications often require updating is regarded as a major obstacle for immigrants’ employment and career advancement in Finland (Forsander 2002, Report of Labour and Educational Administration 2005). Recognition of qualifications by the National Board of Education is needed for most posts or positions in the public sector. In addition, the right to practice a profession in Finland is required from certain professional groups, such as health-care professionals and advocates. Private sector employers decide themselves on the applicant’s eligibility based on foreign qualifications; authorised recognition is not required but may be of assistance. Furthermore, employers value Finnish qualifications more than ones acquired outside Finland and acquiring a qualification in Finland significantly improves the possibilities of finding work that corresponds with education (Sutela 2005).

Education and training programmes targeted to employed migrant workers. Up to now, there have been no public training programmes targeted specifically to employed migrant workers although the need for such programmes, particularly Finnish language teaching, has been recently recognised in the Government Migration Policy Programme. Proper introduction to work as well as related training is the employer’s responsibility. According to the National Board of Education, training of migrant employees under apprenticeship contracts increased by 20% from 2005 to 2006. These training contracts usually aim at a vocational qualification and require knowledge in the Finnish language.

Legislation. Migrant employees living in Finland as well as posted workers are covered by the same legislation as Finnish employees in terms of employment contracts, working hours, occupational health and safety, remuneration, etc. Collective agreements also cover migrant and Finnish workers alike. Equal treatment of migrant employees at the workplace is provided for in the Non-Discrimination Act (2004), the Employment Contracts Act (2001) and the Criminal Code (1989). Authorities provide written material in several languages of legal provisions and contractual arrangements on the terms of employment and of procedures and practices based on these, and these materials are easily available e.g. on the Internet sites of the Labour Protection Department and of the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

In practice, however, unequal treatment and severe violations of the legal provisions on migrant employees are not uncommon. The Occupational Safety Administration makes inspections in construction, metal industry, catering business, cleaning branch and in transportation about the working conditions and legal provisions on foreign employees. A report from 2005-2007 states that mistreatment of posted workers is particularly common: only one in four of the inspected companies paid posted workers according to the minimum standards agreed in collective agreements and less than half of the companies provided them the occupational health services required by law.

Policy programmes and projects. Thus far, the focus in public programmes has been on the promotion of employability of unemployed migrants. However, over the years 2008-2013, the Ministry of the Interior will co-ordinate and support an extensive ESF related programme targeted specifically at the promotion of work-related immigration. The programme includes, for example, co-operation with countries of departure in terms of recruitment and language training, development of integration services for foreign employees and their families, promotion of multicultural skills at workplaces and specific programmes for highly-educated migrant employees.

3. Collective bargaining and HRM initiatives

There are no multi-employer collective agreements in Finland that would address the employment or workplace promotion of migrant workers in particular, nor are there such collective agreements at company level. The main principle is that immigrant and Finnish workers alike are covered by collective agreements.

The central organisations of labour market parties as well as several trade unions and employer’s associations have, however, been active in other forms of co-operation to promote the quality of working life of immigrant employees. These activities include, for example, provision of information about terms of employment contracts and employer’s obligations, development projects to promote equal opportunities in multicultural workplaces, such as Etmo (an EQUAL project), and distribution of educational material to workplaces about the promotion of equal opportunities in working life. In addition, trade unions provide their own information and consultation services for migrant workers, e.g. at the Information Centre.

An example of co-operation between the labour market parties is the so called “Occupational Safety Card“ training aimed particularly at the industrial and construction sectors, organised by the Centre for Occupational Safety. The course material is also available in Swedish, English, Estonian and Russian. Major employers (for example, shipbuilder Aker Yards and Olkiluoto nuclear power plant construction site) organise training courses directed specifically at non-national employees. Up to now, some 5,000 non-national employees have completed Occupational Safety training and passed the related exams. Major construction companies require that the employees of the subcontractors at their construction sites have a valid Occupational Safety Card.

According to the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, company HRM initiatives related to the promotion of migrant workers so far exist on a relatively small scale. They have emerged to the direct needs of the companies that employ several employees with foreign background. The most common forms of such initiatives are i) more thorough familiarisation of new employees with foreign background with contractual issues, workplace practices and work methods compared to Finnish employees and ii) work community training in multiculturalism. Lately, management training programmes have begun to include courses in multiculturalism as well. Organisations that make use of the above mentioned HRM initiatives can be found in a variety of sectors, but migrant workers are most commonly employed in transportation and logistics, cleaning branch, catering services, technology industries and construction, and therefore the need for such initiatives may be most urgent in companies from these sectors. The measures are typically developed and used in companies that offer low-skilled, low-paid jobs and face severe competition for labour on the current labour market, on the one hand, and in the companies that employ highly educated professionals internationally, on the other.

4. Good practices and examples

Analysis and repertoires of good practices:

Good practices to promote integration and occupational advancement at workplaces of employees with a foreign background are still being developed in Finland. So far, there are only few documents of such good practices:

1) The Etmo project’s publication “We did it” pulls together the experiences from 16 working communities related with the development of “modes of action and practices to promote ethnic equality, tolerance and multiculturalism at the workplace and thereby improve employability of immigrants”. The publication lists the following good practices, for example, identified by the working communities who participated in the project:

  • Introduction to the rules of employment should also include the “unwritten” rules of employment and the working community.

  • Prior to employing a person with an immigrant background, the working community should be offered information and briefing on integration and multiculturalism. The working community should be prepared to give support for the new employee.

  • Immigrant employees should be offered language training related to the vocabulary of the trade.

  • Working culture bridge clubs, in which both Finnish and immigrant employees as well as supervisors, union representatives and corporate management are represented, were successful forums to bring forth and improve issues related to multiculturalism.

The Etmo project showed particularly that increasing everyday interaction between the immigrant and the majority population employees is necessary to break-up the “similarity talk” of the majority population employees that belittles the hidden discrimination experienced by the immigrant workers and makes demands for their assimilation into the Finnish working culture rather than promotes true integration and multiculturalism.

2) The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations has collected together information on projects and experiences on the promotion of multiculturalism at the workplace. The report includes good practices in the following categories:

  • Introduction of the immigrant worker to work tasks and the working community

  • Training of the working community as a whole to the integration of migrant workers and multiculturalism

  • Rules, action plans and codes of ethics related to equality and diversity at workplace

  • Management of diversity.

Examples of workplace promotion of migrant workers:

The following are two examples of companies that employ a number of immigrant workers in Finland.

ISS Services Finland

ISS Services Finland is a business unit of the ISS World Corporation, an international facility service provider. It has approximately 13,000 employees in Finland, some 440 of them, or about 3.5% of the personnel in Finland, are migrants.

ISS Services Finland has recently implemented an Immigrant Workers’ Training Programme, which is organised into two lines: for those who have been in the organisation for some time already and for those who are being recruited. The programme includes Finnish language teaching, introduction to the central concepts and legal provisions of working life in Finland, and vocational training. For those being recruited, the training programme lasts four months, including three weeks of practical training. For the others, the training programme lasts two hours a week for four months. The motivation for setting up the training programme is related to the company’s needs for labour, information collected a few years ago about the needs for training and support for immigrant workers in the company, and commitment of the corporate management and supervisory staff to the programme. The programme has been implemented only recently, but the feedback from the supervisors has been positive.

Itella Logistics

Itella Logistics is a business group of the Itella Corporation, and offers material logistics services specifically for corporate customers world wide. It has approximately 4,400 employees in eight European countries, of which 3,500 are in Finland. Some 300 of the employees, or about 10% of the personnel in Finland, are of foreign origin. In certain units the proportion of immigrant workers is even higher (up to about 30% in the sorting centre).

In Itella Logistics’ experience, the key to successful integration of employees with a foreign background is based on explicit and consistent implementation of the corporate values that emphasise equal treatment and opportunities for all. Immigrant and Finnish workers alike are recruited to the leadership training programmes, although knowledge in Finnish and English is required. Familiarisation of new employees to work tasks, provisions of the employment contract and also to the basic or “unwritten” rules of the employment and working community is given in English, Estonian, Russian or Somali when needed. The religious background of the employees is respected in that, for example, religious diets are taken into consideration in the menu of the staff canteen and rules have been agreed upon hours of prayer. An academic study of experiences of Finnish and immigrant employees about Itella Logistics as a multicultural workplace is under way.

5. Commentary by the NC

The phenomenon is relatively new in Finland because as yet there are relatively few migrant employees in Finland. The practices and methods for their workplace and occupational promotion are still being developed.

Sources

  • Employment Statistics, Finland. Register-based statistics tables.

  • Finnish Labour Force Survey

  • Immigrants’ Living Conditions Survey 2002 - a Survey on the Living Conditions of Russians, Estonians, Somalis and Vietnamese.

  • Pohjanpää, K., Paananen, S., Nieminen, M.(2003) Maahanmuuttajien elinolot. Venäläisten, virolaisten, somalialaisten ja vietnamilaisten elämää Suomessa 2002 (Immigrants’ Living Conditions, in Finnish only). Statistics Finland.

  • Sippola, A., Leponiemi, J., Suutari, V. (2006) Kulttuurisesti monimuotoistuvien työyhteisöjen kehittäminen. Pitkittäistutkimus 15 työkulttuurin välittäjäryhmän toiminnasta ja vaikuttavuudesta (Develompent of Culturally Diverse Organisations, in Finnish only). Työpoliittinen tutkimus 304.

  • Sutela, H. (2005) Maahanmuuttajat palkkatyössä (Immigrants in Paid Work, in Finnish only). In Paananen, S. (ed.) Maahanmuuttajien elämää Suomessa (Immigrants’ Life in Finland, in Finnish only). Statistics Finland.

  • Vartia, M., Bergbom B., Giorgiani, T., Rintala-Rasmus A., Riala, R., Salminen, S. (2007) Monikulttuurisuus työn arjessa (Multiculturalism in Everyday Working Life, in Finnish only). Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Ministry of Labour.

  • We Did It. Multiculturalism as a resource in the working community. ETMO - good practices developed. A report of the ETMO project.

  • Vänskä-Rajala, K. (2007) Työelämän hyvät käytännöt (Good Practices of [diverse] Working Life). A report of the National Board of Ethnic Relations.

Noora Järnefelt, Statistics Finland

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