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The rules for labour-based immigration need clarifying

 Työelämää pitäisi kehittää entistä vastaanottavaisemmaksi uusille tulijoille.
The Finnish Public Services Unions’ International Network proposes a common forum to promote labour-based immigration.

The rules for labour-based immigration need clarifying

Published 02.05.2024 at 17:39
Written by
Jenni Meronen
The Finnish Public Services Unions’ International Network proposes a common forum to promote labour-based immigration.

In recent years, leaps and bounds have been made in the promotion and practices of labour-based immigration. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, according to the seminar "Labour-based immigration and ethical recruitment" by FIPSU, The Finnish Public Services Unions’ International Network. The seminar was held  in Helsinki on 26 April.

According to Mika Nykänen, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Government's intention regarding labour-based immigration is clear. Labour-based immigration is a key means of strengthening the economy and employment, and international recruitment offers solutions to labour shortages. At the same time, Finland's traction and retention power must be strengthened, as Finland competes with other countries for skilled labour.

Both Finland's country image and smooth residence permit processes play an important role in attracting labour. Retention power can be improved by, among other things, ensuring smooth banking services and developing working life to be more receptive to new entrants.

In Finland's partnership model, measures to promote labour-based immigration are targeted especially at the EU and EEA area, India, Brazil, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Government opposes labour exploitation with an action plan adopted in February 2024. Its objectives include promoting cooperation between authorities, promoting integration, strengthening employers' social responsibility and enhancing the implementation of criminal responsibility, for example by increasing sanctions for exploitation.

Several seminar participants pointed out that the governments intentions to weaken the position of immigrants is incompatible with Finland's objective of strengthening traction and retention power. At the same time, concerns were raised about the impact of the cuts on the implementation of the action plan.

Trade unions ask for cooperation

On Friday, FIPSU published it’s updated ethical principles for the recruitment of foreign employees. At the seminar, it also proposed a common, permanent forum to clarify labour migration practices. The forum would bring together trade unions and employers, relevant ministries, educational institutions, recruitment companies, experts and researchers.

The objectives of the forum would include, among other things, the creation of common, ethical rules for labour-based immigration, the participation of trade unions in the creation of the government's partnership model, the provision of language training and information related to society and working life to all newcomers, and cultural education at workplaces.

International recruitments usually take place through various recruitment partners. The aim of trade unions is for these companies to be registered, and for their activities to be monitored.

– At the moment, the state does not have tools to know what is happening on the ground, so there is no way to ascertain what kind of actors they are working with. And when there is no criminalizing legislation, it’s the immigrant who ultimately bears the risk, said Tiina Vaittinen, a researcher at the University of Tampere, who hosted the event.

Language teaching must be intensified

According to Anna Kukka, Negotiation Director for Local Government and Wellbeing Services Counties Employers, international recruitment has already been resorted to or will be used in almost all wellbeing services counties in Finland. However, according to feedback from employers, the effort required by international recruitment in relation to the end result was high, and it alone will not solve the labour shortage.

– Recruitment processes should be streamlined quickly. The biggest bottlenecks are related to the qualification process in the health and social services sector. How can qualifications be flexibly recognised and, if necessary, supplemented, Kukka said.

Another bottleneck is the requirement for Finnish language skills. In the health and social services sector, language learning plays a particularly important role because of patient safety. According to Kukka, there is an urgent need for nationwide language training in Finland.

Residence permits can be obtained faster than before

According to the National Audit Office of Finland's audit report of 2022, the field of authorities related to labour migration was extensive and fragmented, and the promotion of labour-based immigration had often been based on individual projects rather than structural development.

However, the transfer of administration from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment had streamlined the process of applying for residence permits and decision-making. Residence permit processes had become faster but were still too slow and unpredictable in relation to employers' needs, said Sari Hanhinen, Head of Inspection.

After the inspection, however, the processing times for residence permits for employed persons have halved, partly due to the increasing use of automation. Specialists have their own fast-track service, which allows them to obtain a residence permit in an average of two weeks. Family reunification is also quick for specialists, but it is expensive and slow for employed persons.

– One of the conclusions and recommendations based on the report was that family reunification of employed persons should be accelerated. That's a big pull factor, Hanhinen said.

In 2023, a historically high number of social and health care workers were recruited to Finland from abroad, nearly 2,300 people. The figure had nearly doubled from 2022.

Mentoring promotes integration

As a good practice in international recruitment, the seminar highlighted the model of the wellbeing services counties of Vantaa and Kerava, where a mentoring program has been created to support the integration of Filipino nurses. Teaching nurse Kati Pajari holds a mentor meeting 1-2 times a month, during which both nursing practices and the rules of working life are discussed.

The model was first tested with 23 nurses who arrived in Finland. The next group of immigrants was included in the program even before leaving, as Pajari says that she contacted them through Teams.

– It was important to start building trust already in the country of origin, Pajari said.