Finland’s politics of discrimination and exclusion are seen in your thin pension

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Decades of labor discrimination in Finland adds up to one terrible reality for some migrants: a thin pension and poverty. If in this decade the pay gap between migrants and white Finns was 25% (36,800 euros versus 27,500 euros made by migrants), it’s clear that their pension will not add up to much. 

Poor salaries, fragmented employment histories also means lower social welfare benefits like unemployment, which are 39% lower for migrants (15,000 euros versus 9,400 euros) and up to 59% for those who are outside the labor force (7,500 euros versus 3,100 euros), according to Pekka Myrskylä, a former Statistics Finland researcher.

An article about migrant pensioners in Finland published by YLE News tells us something we’ve always known:

“The vulnerability of many of the older migrants we spoke to shone through clearly. They expressed concern about access to services, language problems, isolation and marginalisation—and financial difficulties.”


Before Finland would require migrants to apply for a separate work permit for each employer. Since migrants rarely got permanent jobs, they had to freelance, which meant periods without work. All of this naturally means a meager pension that will send you to the poor farm.

Here’s one anecdote published in the same article:

“My mother and I are very worried about her future as an older person with no family in her home country, who cannot however permanently join her only family in Finland. She was denied a residency permit, but has nothing and no one to go back to. I’m her only child. My dad is dead. It is scary for us both, the prospect of her going back there alone, or the prospect of me having to bear the brunt of her care because she isn’t entitled to anything here.” Christine*, daughter of 67-year-old migrant woman

If you want to know more shameful examples of how Finland treats its migrant pensioners, the culprit is decades of denial and ineffective integration policies.

Talk to migrant pensioners and get back to Migrant Tales ([email protected]) and we’ll publish their story.

I always remember one of them, who was an Argentinean musician, I met in the 1980s. When he retired he lived in poverty. It was fortunate for him, and the system, that he didn’t live long as a pensioner.

The problems migrant pensioners face in Finland is real and one of the many inequalities that they suffer in this country.