The programme of our new government is titled ”A Strong and Committed Finland”. We do not fully understand what the government is referring to, as it seems to show a lack of commitment to our nation’s future instead. The government has adopted unreasonable measures against our immigrant and expatriate community, who are shocked and concerned regarding the proposed changes in immigration policies.
Our nation faces considerable demographic challenges as our population ages, and economic recovery is hindered by the terrible availability of skilled workers. The Helsinki region Chamber of Commerce has estimated that Finland needs around 100,000 additional people in the labour force!
While our job market is in crisis, the current government is for some reason trying to reduce immigration. The previous government reduced bureaucracy and doubled the number of work-based immigration applications processed by modernising IT systems and pushing departments to cooperate.
All the new government had to do was remove obstacles to efficient and fair processing, which they promised to do while campaigning. Instead, we got a package of xenophobic and backward-looking policies. Finland urgently needs more skilled labour in many sectors from healthcare to quantum computing. Unfortunately, we are now governed by a coalition which prioritises ethnic nationalism over the economy. This is an absurd choice coming from parties who campaigned with the economy as a priority!
The government’s choices have been criticised across the board. The foreign workers’ community, startup founders, gaming entrepreneurs, trade unions, and industry representatives have come together and shared their unequivocally negative views. We are not only shooting ourselves in the foot as a nation, we are putting current and future foreign workers in an unfair situation. Our government has decided to communicate that people are only as useful as their work output. People will be cast out at the earliest opportunity when they cease to be ”useful”. The proposed three-month rule for retaining a work-based residence permit in case of unemployment is unnecessarily restrictive.Even Denmark, a nation whose immigration policies right-wing parties often refer to, has six months to find new employment.
The three-month rule is only one example of the proposed policy changes in the government’s programme. The increased salary requirements for obtaining a work-based residence permit, permanent residence permit conditions that are substantially more difficult to achieve, hindering the possibility of getting a work-based residence permit based on previous immigration status, and the reporting requirements for companies that employ immigrants are all short-sighted decisions that will not make this country stronger or take care of our immigrant residents.
These policies are not only inhumane to the people who want to come here and participate in building the best society on the planet. The policies are, in a word, daft. Why do we want to hinder the people we need as people and us as a nation? It could be somehow justifiable if there were a greater good behind all of this. But there is none. The policies only exist to put together a government based on racism, short-sightedness, and greed, with no consideration given to the disastrous ramifications of these policies.
A person’s value to society should not be based on their employment or contribution to GDP. But even if one takes such a view, these policies do not make sense. The figure below compares the employment rate of people born in Finland (yellow) and abroad (blue). There is no need to make substantial changes to requirements as the progress in the last years has been very positive. And, in any case, if the government was truly concerned about immigrant employment, they would tackle workplace discrimination instead of hindering entry.
Figure source: Ulkomaalaisten työttömyys ja palveluihin osallistuminen, Finnish Ministry of Employment and Economic Affairs, February 2023.
EU legislation and our constitution help protect our society and the foreign workers’ community somewhat. The most drastic measures will possibly be pre-empted by EU legislation. However, it is concerning that we need to rely on EU regulation to push back on the harmful decisions of our new government.
We fully support our valued foreign workers’ community and their justified protest, and we denounce the immigration policies of Mr Orpo’s government.
Hanna Holopainen, Member of Parliament for the Green Party, Chairperson for The Finnish Greens for Science and Technology (Viite)
Saara Hyrkkö, Member of Parliament for the Green Party
Paavo Heiskanen, Chairperson for Espoo Greens for Science and Technology