By Enrique Tessieri
To confirm whether anti-immigrant politicians are spreading urban myths or not, I recommend taking a look at the 2010 Finnish Immigration Service (FIS) annual report. What you may find may startle, even anger you.
I’m not speaking specifically of Perussuomalaiset (PS) party MPs like Teuvo Hakkarainen, who are walking political time bombs packed with ignorance. The source of your irritation may be more credible politicians who should know better but are spreading and enforcing urban myths about immigrants in their opportunistic bid to gain votes.
There is nothing “patriotic” about spreading urban myths about immigrants because great harm is done to Finland economically, socially and politically.
If you look at last year’s FIS report, we will see some startling facts that blow the cover off the urban myths that are fed like “facts” to the public by some politicians. Here it is (and it does not harm to repeat this fact over again): The main reason why foreigners moved to Finland in 2010 was for family reasons (31%), study (25%) and work (17%). Asylum seekers accounted for only 10%.
While these figures attempt to give a clean-cut division of the reasons for coming to Finland, the issue is a bit more complex. Just because a person come to Finland due to family reasons, he can end up employed like the ones that came for work.
What does a mere 17% (3,030 people) of foreigners who got work permits last year on the grounds of employment and self-employment tell us?
For one, it reveals that too few skilled people move on their own will to Finland for work. It tells us as well another disturbing fact: We are far behind other countries in attracting skilled labor as our ever-growing army of pensioners swells this decade and the next.
While some politicians warned us in 2006 that the entire Estonian workforce, or half a million people, was ready to invade Finland, the truth is that we are no magnet for skilled labor.
Why would a skilled immigrant move with his or her family to Finland if there are easier and friendlier countries in Europe? Why would they move to a country where a right-wing populist anti-immigration party, the PS, gained 19.1% of the votes in April from 4.05% in 2007?
Why would a foreign company invest in this country and create more jobs?
While the recession may be an important factor why there were 25.2% less permits given to foreigners compared with 2009 for work and self-employment, other factors like the weather, high taxation, language certainly play a role.
What to do?
Send each politician an electronic copy of the FIS annual report and ask them why they distort the facts in order to hide the real issues, which is dealing with our ever-growing demographic challenges.
Note: There are other urban myths that I could have brought up. These can be discussed as well.