Is Finland a good country for migrants and minorities?

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Finland gets a lot of international recognition for being one of the most competitive countries in the world, for press freedom, women rights, scores high on the good country index, having one of the best educational systems in the world and the likes. The latter raises a question: How inclusive of a country is Finland to migrants, cultural diversity and gay marriage? 

What goes around, comes around, right?

Näyttökuva 2014-6-25 kello 12.14.16
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As a multicultural Finn who has lived in this country for a long time, I’ve never felt that these distinctions granted to Finland applied directly to me. Press freedom? I doubt that many of the issues  we raise on Migrant Tales would see the light of day in the national media.

Why? Because all these distinctions given by think-tanks abroad are meant for white ethnic Finns. They do not really apply to migrants and minorities.

Taking into account the adverse winds blowing in Finland against minorities, migrants and their children, is it surprising that the legal affairs committee of parliament  voted Tuesday 10-6 against a citizen’s initiative on gay marriage?

The same committee voted 9-8 in February 2013 against gay marriage. This prompted a citizens’ initiative that got 166,000 signatures.

Finland is the only country in the Nordic region where gays cannot get married.

If you are surprised by the most recent vote, then you’re pretty gullible and probably think that the rise of the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party in the 2011 parliamentary elections was nothing more than a mere protest vote that would go away in time.

The question is not only to connect the dots, even if this is important, but why we don’t bother to do so. There is a relationship between the rise of intolerance in Finland against migrants and minorities like gays.  Our problem is that those in power don’t want to know because some of them may dread what they’ll see.

And why should their day be ruined if the  World Economic Forum recently named Finland as the most competitive economy in Europe?

Risto J. Penttilä expresses dismay at the award in the Financial Times:

For a start, Finland’s economy has not grown in five years. The unemployment rate is 9 per cent. The flagship company, Nokia, was forced to sell its handset business to Microsoft last year. Its shipyards are in trouble; its forestry companies are cutting costs and closing plants. Public expenditure is expected to reach 58 per cent of gross domestic product this year – a larger share of output even than France.

Even if Penttilä, a member of the conservative National Coalition Party who represents the interest of the business sector as chairman of EVAa policy and pro-market think tank, he does have a point. 

The latest vote against gay marriage is a clear indication that matters for other minorities in Finland won’t improve in the near future.

Is Finland then a good country for minorities and migrants?

Taking into account that the unemployment rate for migrants, which is generally three times higher than the national average of about 9%, coupled with the rise of a xenophobic party like the PS, it’s clear that this isn’t an ideal country for some migrants and minorities.

It is not only a dead-end country for some, but outright hostile as well.


* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The names adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.