Great to hear that attitudes towards migrants are improving in Finland. Let’s not, however, generalize and cry victory yet

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Why are attitudes becoming more favorable towards migrants in Finland? Helsingin Sanomat turns to Lena Näre, a sociologist, to provide some insight on why attitudes towards migrants have become more desirable. 

Some results below of the poll published by Helsingin Sanomat Sunday.


Should Finland take more migrants? Yes (kyllä), don’t know (ei osaa sanoa), and no (ei). The table above shows that before the financial crisis of 2008, 55% stated that they’d want more migrants to come to Finland. Due to the recovery of the economy, among other reasons, attitudes are becoming more favorable. 

All those who want to come to live and work in Finland should be allowed to move to Finland. Totally agree (täysin samaa mieltä), somewhat agree (osittain samaa mieltä), don’t know (ei osaa sanoa), somewhat disagree (osittain eri mieltä), and strongly disagree (täysin eri mieltä). The most significant shift is from 2006 to 2017.
To what extent does racism manifest itself in Finland? A lot (paljon), quite a lot (melko paljon), don’t know (ei osaa sanoa), not really much (ei juuri), not at all (ei käytännössä lainkaan). Sixty-seven percent of those polled felt that there was either a lot (8%) or quite a lot (59%) of racism in Finland.

A newspaper article about racism and migrant attitudes has its limitations. While Näre gives us some insight on why attitudes are changing, the sociologist could have spoken a little about structural racism and how such a social ill exists in Finland irrespective if the economy expands or shrinks.

Some good points that Näre makes are that it appears that the white Finnish public understands that migrants aren’t a threat. They don’t come here to take Finns’ jobs and migrants are needed due to Finland’s aging population.

Even if the global economic crisis of 2008 triggered an economic downturn and uncertainty in Finland, it would be too simplistic to state that such attitudes change due to the economic situation.

Too often we hear politicians and others blame the rise of racism on the economy. In a way, it serves as a good excuse to justify racism. Politicians use this argument a lot as we saw with Timo Soini’s Perussuomalaiset* (PS) before they imploded in June.Blaming racism on an economic downturn is like washing your hands of the problem. It’s like a drunk who acts in an anti-social manner and blame the alcohol, not the person per se.

Even if there was economic uncertainty after 2008, the PS rarely spoke of the economy but used racism, deeply embedded in Finnish society and denied, to lash out at migrants and minorities.  Considering that they won 39 seats in the 2011 parliamentary elections from 5 MPs in 2007, we can conclude that they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Even if attitudes appear to be improving towards migrants, it is too simplistic to generalize that this is the case for all migrants.

Not so.

Ethnic, national and religious backgrounds play an important in a racialized society like Finland how you will be treated.

After the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity. One is more open about it while the other is more diplomatic.

A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.

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