Zuzeeko Tegha Abeng
Somalis are among the largest groups of immigrants in Finland. They are also among the largest unemployed group of immigrants in the country. Many people [mistakenly] think that the high rate of unemployment among Somalis is because they are not willing to work. This, in my view, is not the case.
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Somalians in Finland have been stereotyped as lazy and depend on social welfare, despite numerous news reports that of all immigrants in Finland, Somalis (including those with language skills and a profession) find it most difficult to find work.
During the Midsummer weekend, I had a discussion with a couple of people about the employment situation of Somalis in Finland. The majority of those involved in the discussion promulgated the view that most people of Somali origin are unemployed because of lack of education, “laziness” and dependence on KELA, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.
In my opinion, the assertion is incorrect, stereotypical and sheds light on widespread prejudice and negative attitudes towards Somalis in Finland.
According to a report by Yle, the highest rates of immigrant unemployment in 2010 were among Somalis, Iraqis and Afghans who arrived Finland as refugees. The rate of unemployment for the three nationalities stood at over 50%.
The Director of Immigration Affairs for the City of Helsinki pointed out in the Yle report that “discrimination is clearly the big reason” for the high rate of unemployment among Somalis. According to the director, “of those who have been here 15 to 20 years, half have completed degrees in Finland”.
The director’s statement debunks the assertion that Somalis in Finland are unemployment because they are uneducated, lazy and enjoy being dependent on KELA.
In my view, employer discrimination and negative attitudes towards Somalis account for the high rate of unemployment among Finland’s largest group of Africans.
According to Helsingin Sanomat, one reason for the high rate of unemployment among immigrants in Finland is the fact that Finnish employers regard Finnish education and Finnish work experience as better than foreign equivalents. But immigrants from Somalia experience difficulties finding work, despite the fact that many of them have Finnish education. According to researcher Tuula Joronen, negative attitudes and impressions account for the phenomenon.
In 2010 and 2011, the risk of unemployment was highest among Somali speakers than among any other language group in Finland – according to Statistics Finland. Followed by high risk among Arabic, Persian and Kurdish speakers.
A poll revealed that Somalis and Muslims are among the groups most affected by racism and intolerance in Finland.
It is plausible to conclude from the aforementioned that prejudice, negative attitudes and employer discrimination against Somalis partly account for the high rate of unemployment in the Somali community. Many Somalis have learnt Finnish language and many have Finnish degrees and training. They should be employed without discrimination.
There was a total of 7,468 Somalians in Finland in 2012.
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This piece was reprinted by Migrant Tales with permission.