By Enrique Tessieri*
Think tank Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) states in a report that Finland already suffers from brain drain “to some extent.” With the backdrop of the April 17 election and a more negative atmosphere towards immigrants, coupled with the cooling of the economy, suggest that brain drain will continue to get worse.
Even if Finland’s educational system has received high global marks, it is a totally different story how Finnish labor markets tap those that have studied in the system. If we look at the vocational school level, it’s pretty clear that Finland squanders such resources. Unemployment among people who are under 25 years old was about 20% in August compared with 6.6% for the whole country, according to Statistics Finland.
A lot has been debated in Finland about how difficult it is for immigrants to get jobs after they take a university degree. Here is one link that shows the plight of Sub-Saharan refugees that received higher education in Finland.
Even though certain groups are quoted more often in the media than others, it is rarely acknowledged that the largest group of people who move to Finland are return migrants; half of all immigrants in Finland are EU citizens. The number of immigrants from Africa and Muslims, the favorite political punching bag of anti-immigration groups, are small in comparison.
Having a distorted view of the outside world and the imagined threat it poses can be hazardous to any country’s economic and social health. It’s pretty clear that Finland needs skilled immigrants to fill jobs in this country left by an ever-growing army of pensioners. Instead, anti-immigration groups like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party win a big election victory in April on an anti-EU and anti-immigration platform.
If the irresponsible and populist statements of parties like the PS were to be believed, it is only a question of time when we will be overrun by certain foreign groups and converting to a new religion.
Spreading these type of urban myths and populist rhetoric are questionable for many reasons. For one, they build real and spiritual walls around this country. They scare away those immigrants we need. Why would any skilled immigrant want to move with his family to Finland if it has a reputation for intolerance and racism? Why would a foreign company want to invest in such a country knowing that their foreign workers could run the danger of being harassed by the local population?
Taking into account challenges like plugging a falling workforce in numbers and creating more jobs in the next two decades, Finns should see parties like the PS, and especially its most extremist anti-immigration wing, as a direct threat to our future economic and social livelihood. Breeding nationalism and suspicion of other groups and the outside world will impoverish Finland in many ways.
These groups in the PS have not only declared war on future immigrants but those living in the country. PS MP Olli Immonen was quoted as saying in Oulu-based daily Kaleva that he wants to do away with the Ombudsman for Minorities because it “hinders free (hate?) speech,” according to him.
Of all the developed countries, only Finland, United States and Germany have a lower educational level than the local inhabitants, reports Helsingin Sanomat quoting an OECD study.
Is Finland is taking advantage of its university educated workforce? What concrete steps must be taken to attract skilled and higher-education immigrants to our country?
The answers that will surface from these questions will certainly reveal the major challenges our society faces in the first half of this century.
*Thank you Hans Zwaga for bringing this issue to my attention.