My father, who moved to Europe from Argentina at the age of 21in the early 1950s, told me that he never learned so much about himself except when he became a foreigner.
In the same manner, and as more foreigners move to Finland, can they help us see the positive and negative aspects of our society? Undoubtedly, one of the positive matters that they will reinforce is our high standard of living and our social welfare system, which is supposed to be based on social justice and equality for all. These values make a Nordic nation such as Finland a beacon of hope in a very troubled world.
Some of the negative matters that foreigners have exposed with their high 20% unemployment are the structural deficiencies of the economy, according to a report by the Financial Times:
The numbers tell a curious story. Finland has recovered from the recession of the early 1990s and its economy grew 6 per cent in 2006.
The country’s gross domestic product has grown by an average annual rate of 3.4 per cent between 1994 and 2005, well above the 1.8 per cent average for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and easily outstripping 2.1 per cent growth in the US and 2.5 per cent in the UK.
But despite this performance, employment growth is weak, hovering at 0.4 per cent, just over the OECD average of 0.3 per cent. This is far lower than it should be given the strong economy and reflects deep underlying structural problems that have been masked by growth, according to private sector analysis.
When speaking to refugees in Finland from countries such as Sudan, who are probably suffering from over 90% unemployment, one sees how social assistance from KELA and other institutions, together with our strict labor laws, slow instead of facilitate their integration process into our society. In the same manner, it also permits society, policy makers and politicians to wash their hands from the challenging task of integrating them.
The presence of foreigners will reveal many good and bad things about ourselves. Some of these, like racism, have come to light. Heikki Waris, one of the foremost Finnish sociologists, claimed in the 1960s that there was no racism in Finland because Finnish society was homogeneous.
How can a society be homogeneous?! It can be near-homogeneous but never homogeneous. What about the Roma of Finland? Certainly there was and still is a lot of racism towards that group. I could list other examples such as the Sami, Skolt Sami and others.