Lip service or action by Finnish municipal authorities?

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

The role of accepting refugees in remote municipalities as a way of slowing the number of people who move out of the community is a half-way solution to the challenging demographic problem facing many parts of Finland. While there is a lot of good will to accommodate refugees in their municipality, many of these people end up moving to bigger cities like Helsinki after short stay. 

One of the problems why refugees and immigrants avoid small municipalities or stay a short while is because there are few opportunities, jobs and near-nonexistent immigrant community.

Another important matter that encourages such refugees to move out of such municipalities when possible is the lack of a clear idea by city officials of what these people’s role is in the community.  Directing them to their umpteenth Finnish-language course, employment office or to The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela)  are not effective ways of dealing with the issue but a method of brushing the problem under the rug.

While some municipalities do a better job than others at integrating refugees and immigrants, those that do a poor job are the ones who do no envisage any “real” place for them. By “real place” I mean hiring refugees and immigrants to work for the municipality and doing everything possible that they’ll work, invest and raise their families in our community.

Mikkeli (pop. 48,676) is a municipality located about 230km northeast of Helsinki.  It’s a typical city that faces serious demographic challenges (aging population) and needs outside investment to create more jobs.  What makes matters worse is that the city does not have any concrete plan or roadmap on how it plans to meet these future demographic and economic challenges.

Believe it or not, Mikkeli has no international director coordinating such efforts except for the assistant mayor.

Some estimates see Finland needing by 2040 two million immigrants to maintain the same age structure it had in 2007, when 17% of the population was over 65 years.  Since such a large number of immigrants are needed to maintain the present age structure, the role of immigration can only slow the process of aging at municipalities like Mikkeli.

In the region of Etelä-Savo where I live, 2040 is already here in some municipalities. In Puumala, 29.3% of the population is over 65 years while the average for Etelä-Savo is 22.7%. In Mikkeli, 19.1% of the inhabitants are pensioners.

In many respects the rise of an anti-immigration party like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) comes at a very bad moment for Finland and regions like Etelä-Savo.

If local authorities are struggling to figure out the big picture for refugees and immigrants in their respective municipalities, they have to deal as well with ever-growing nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment.

Hiding one’s head in the sand is not a solution. Smaller municipalities throughout Finland need not only a viable plan that will promote mutual acceptance, respect, equal opportunities and most importantly jobs for refugees, immigrants and their local inhabitants, they need to implement such a plan now.

  1. Klay_Immigrant

    -“Some estimates see Finland needing by 2040 two million immigrants to maintain the same age structure it had in 2007, when 17% of the population was over 65 years.”

    Hmm, where do I start on this? First of all I hope you are not serious in stating that this is the solution to the ageing population dilemma being experienced not just in Finland but the entire developed world. An increase of population by 37% in just 28 years from only immigration? The equivalent would be for Germany to import 30.3 million people or France 24.4 million in 28 years. Does that sound sensible?

    You are so blinded and obsessed with getting as many immigrants into Finland at any cost that you forget or maybe don’t even care of the consequences. If any population increases at such a fast rate unseen before in that country then big problems will crop up that will affect everyone and subsequently lowering the standard of living. All public services will be strained and squeezed to breaking point. These include education, healthcare, housing and transport. Where are you going to find the money to build or expand these crucial services? The first point of call (especially in Nordic countries) is a tax rise that will mean less disposable income, less spending by individuals and companies leading to a lower quality of life and lower GDP growth as the private sector will suffer. An austerity in disguise one could say.

    Even David Cameron addressed this sole issue in a speech around late 2007 because the UK population had risen by 3 million over a 10 year period. A modest 5.1% increase compared to the 13.2% increase you are advocating for Finland over the same period.

    Another fact of life you seem to have conviently forgotten is that just like Finns and any other human being immigrants get older too and reach pensioner age. So unless you plan to continually import people at the same rate (which will intensify the problems I already mentioned) then it’s a short term fix that will lead to an even more unbalanced age demographic down the line then if those immigrants never came in the first place. Obviously anyone who thinks immigrants are the solution lacks any economic vision or foresight. There’s a saying ‘good economics always makes good politics but good politics doesn’t always make good economics’. This is a classic example of this just like the Euro crisis we are facing now.

    Let’s look at this flawed idea comparing Finland to Germany. Germany has the 3rd highest number of immigrants in the world. The whole point of the Gastarbeiter (guest worker) scheme in the 1960’s and 70’s was to bring immigrants to solve labour shortages. Stupidly the government thought once they have retired or worked for a certain period they would return to their original country. That was the plan but because the vast majority received German citizenship or had children so they never returned so we are left with a position where Germany’s average median age (43.7) is higher than Finland’s (42.3). How can that be if immigrants are the magical solution Enrique thinks they are? Well for the reasons I’ve already said. It’s all a liberal myth otherwise Germany would be much younger than Finland.

    The situation for Finland isn’t actually that bad compared to other countries in this respect. Why? Because in order to maintain age demographics women in a country need to have on average 2.1 children to keep the population as it is, the replacement rate. That’s the key. No developed country reaches that now, but Finland’s is one the highest in that category at 1.83 children. Only the U.S (2.05), Iceland (2.05), France (1.89) and Norway (1.85) are higher. When you look at other countries’ rates such as Germany (1.36), Japan (1.27) or Italy (1.38) then you should realise their predicament is noticeably much worse.

    Statistics Finland own population and age demographic projections for 2020-2060 show that the percentage of over 65s will only increase by 1% each decade with the percentage of children under 14 staying roughly the same. Hardly alarming or worrying!

    All what I have said is based purely on economical value, I haven’t even touched upon the cultural, social or integration implications that 2 million immigrants into Finland would bring but it wouldn’t be happy reading.

  2. Yossie

    “Smaller municipalities throughout Finland need not only a viable plan that will promote mutual acceptance, respect, equal opportunities and most importantly jobs for refugees, immigrants and their local inhabitants, they need to implement such a plan now.”

    Arent we in the root of the problem right here. No one has a plan and no one knows how these immigrants can actually benefit the society. Like you said, municipalities only see refugees as a source of state money and hope they pack their bags before the source dry up for them.

    But what else can you expect? Times have changed since centuries and decades ago when finns emmigrated to US or Sweden. Nowdays all the possible manual labor, or something that uneducated people can do, moves to China or other low cost country. There arent that many jobs uneducated, illiterate, non-finnish speakers can do.

    I wonder where the benefit of this mystical “multiculturalism” comes? Sure it aint creating jobs since you are demanding municipalities to make those.

  3. Allan

    Well the answer is self-evident. The municipality gets a government handout for 3 years to accommodate the refugees. By that time they have packed up and escape like anyone else does from th village, and a new batch can be accommodated. The magic moneymaker!

    And Finland doesn’t “need” immigrants. Finland needs industry and productive jobs, not services or make-work, but industrial production. When you have jobs then you have a “need” of workers, not before.