Camtu Suhonen: Finding work and career advancement in Finland is a tall order

by , under Camtu Suhonen

Migrant Tales insight: This candid essay below by Camtu Suhonen highlights the difficulties of getting and career advancement in Finland. It is a follow up to what a thirty-five-year-old foreigner wrote recently about his experiences in the Finnish job market. Employment and unemployment are some of the hottest topics among migrants and minorities. 

Migrant Tales invites its readers to share their experiences in this area. 

Located in the northern part of the European continent is a country that borders Russia, Norway, and Sweden. It is called Finland with the capital city of Helsinki. For many years, it has been included in the list of happiest nations in the world based on various criteria like trust, support, perceived freedom, per capita gross domestic product, health index, and life expectancy, to name a few.

Because of its recognition as one of the happiest places on earth, many people from different countries harbor a desire to someday move to Finland and stay there for good. This might not be the best course of action to take because the reality is that Finland is not the most welcoming country there is, especially when it comes to immigrants.

Work for qualified foreigners is hard to come by. Finland is supposed to be one of the happiest nations in the world but for whom? Photo: Camtu Suhonen.

Locals themselves are finding it difficult to believe that their home is indeed one of the happiest places in the world as they are experiencing particular struggles themselves. For one, the cost of living is extremely high in this part of the world. Everyone under the watchful eye of the government is also obligated to pay large sums of tax.

You would think that only immigrants will have to face some hardships, but no, even the locals are pressured to get gainful employment because even the best degree won’t guarantee them work. This instability is something that the country has yet to overcome, and might not do so anytime soon with the government turning a blind eye towards the issue.

At least, the locals are considerably much happier compared to the immigrants who have tried to make a home out of their Finnish residences. If the locals have a challenging time finding decent jobs, the condition of immigrants is much graver. Making ends meet is not simply achieved in this country as local employers tend to discriminate against foreigners.

Locals are the first priority when it comes to work, except for blue-collar jobs, which are reserved mostly for immigrants. Jobs in construction, garbage collection, and the like, which locals find disgusting, are generously given to immigrants that have no other options in terms of employment opportunities. If there are professional-level jobs that foreigners can get, these are found in the information technology field as the country is always in need of highly-qualified programmers.

Other types of work commonly provided to immigrants include, but are not limited to, cleaning houses and offices, taking care of the elderly, and watching over the dead. The discrimination against foreigners is something the country has always been stained with, but there are currently no actions being taken to stop it from happening. This is why it may not be such a good idea to move to Finland unless you are Finnish or have a Finnish spouse and family; even then, living elsewhere might still be a whole lot better.

One of the excuses that is commonly used by local employers so as not to hire foreigners is the latter’s unfamiliarity with the local language. But in reality, English is one of the primary languages used in the country. Even most of the machinery or equipment that factories and businesses use have English instructions. Clearly, the inability to speak the local lingo is just another hole that locals can escape to and justify their discriminating bones with.

Did you know that even professional degrees, for as long as they have not been earned in Finland, are automatically discounted from one’s resume? This alone will easily reduce the number of potential job opportunities that foreigners will have access to. If they are lucky enough to be employed in a white-collar job, managers and supervisors may actively work to hinder their progress by ganging up on them, making them feel inadequate for the position and focusing on nothing but the mistakes and slip-ups in their work.

Take this as an example. There is an African woman who is secretly working for the Scandic hotel and have been there for over a decade. She was hired as an assistant and remains an assistant to this day. She has not been promoted to a higher position despite her experience, years of service, and Finnish Bachelor’s degree simply because of her heritage. In Finland, no matter how hard you work, for as long as you are a foreigner, you will never be good enough for a high-level, high-paying, and stable job.

There is also a local labor office called TE-toimisto that is supposed to help locals and immigrants alike when it comes to job hunting, but what they do to foreigners is simply waste their time while they are in the country. The labor office sends immigrants to low-quality schools supposedly to learn the language, in the hopes of getting employed right after. Sadly, even with the ability to speak like a local, most immigrants still fail to get good working opportunities and remain tied to blue-collar work.

The government has this habit of blaming the economy for the lack of jobs for foreigners. Every single time, the reason they use is that there is an economic crisis that limits the availability of jobs. They always try to evade the subject that it is nothing but dire discrimination that is preventing foreigners from gaining equal opportunities when they are in the country.

For the government, aside from unemployment benefits, it is enough to extend opportunities for vocational learning to these people. Again, training for blue-collar work. If they invested time to educate local companies, businesses, and employers, and provide the necessary incentives for them to actually want to hire immigrants, then their efforts will yield results that are more beneficial to the people living in their country.

Having a proactive approach to things might also reduce the suicide rate among foreign nationals. Yes, one of the happiest places in the world has one of the highest suicide rates too. So the next time you are awe-inspired about Finland being awarded by the Global Happiness Index, stop and think. Do your research and see how unwelcoming of a country it really is, and find yourself potential foreign residence elsewhere.