One of the surprising matters about the debate on multiculturalism is how little we understand the basic terms. Take for instance the term multicultural. Does it only mean a society comprised physically of many (multi) cultures, or is it a policy that facilitates the participation of immigrants and ethnic minorities in a society?
Finland is not officially a multicultural society like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, but our laws shows multicultural sensibility (Constitution, Citizenship and Non-Discrimination Act) towards minorities.
What do people mean in Finland when we speak of “multicultural society?” Are we referring to a society comprised physically of many cultures and/or official policy through laws such as the Non-Discrimination Act?
I suspect that it is a bit of the both.
If we are still pretty much in the dark about what multiculturalism is and implies for Finland, how can we debate the issue effectively?
One of the reasons why some believe that multiculturalism is good for Finland is because there are so few immigrants in this country. It is a bit like being in favor of peace. Everyone will agree that peace is important but when the chips are down and war breaks out, some of us turn into Rambos.
Since multiculturalism (as a policy) has become a hypersensitive political issue during these difficult economic times, I believe that this moment is a better time than ever to discuss inequalities in our society: discrimination, exclusion and unemployment.
The recession in Finland has most likely hardened attitudes against the small immigrant community.
Is multiculturalism as a policy good for Finland?
Answering the question requires us to understand four phases: immigrants, recognition, acceptance and incorporation into society. We are probably entering the second phase (recognition) in Finland.
Even though integration in global markets is vital to Finland’s survival and success as a country, over 20% immigrant unemployment nationally reveals a lot about the role of these people in this country. How can society benefit from newcomers if exceptionally high unemployment continues to be an issue? How are our “multicultural sensible” policies promoting greater incorporation of some minorities in society?
Is multiculturalism good for Finland?
Probably the question should be turned around: Is Finland ready for multiculturalism?