Finland: Immigrant employment – debate and action

Social partners seek to facilitate the integration of immigrants, but trade unions and some political parties dismiss proposals for reduced salaries for unqualified immigrants.

The discussion on immigrant employment remained active during the first quarter of 2016. In January, the Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo proposed that immigrants without language skills and other qualifications could be hired at lower salaries than collective agreements dictate. The proposal was widely rejected – by peak-level trade unions, opposition parties and the government partner Finns Party. Meanwhile, since December 2015, the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, together with the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, have been preparing a rapid employment model for immigrants. The model is to be based on private financing (a so-called 'social impact bond' model) and is expected be implemented during the spring of 2016.

Social partners have also taken steps to facilitate the integration of immigrants. In March 2015, the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) opened a free judicial service on labour-related questions for workers with immigrant backgrounds. The judicial counsellor will also advise immigrant organisations and trade unions. The first of its kind, the service is financed primarily by the European Social Fund. The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), on the other hand, is engaging in a campaign to promote the employment of immigrants in Finland. The campaign is not targeted at refugees as such; however, the confederation encourages EK members to hire competent refugees, either through the campaign or with the help of other projects.

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