Many good studies show racism in Finland, too few give us any solutions on how to tackle the problem

by , under Enrique Tessieri

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin (1924-87)

In Finland, we read a lot of studies about racism and discrimination. One recent article by Raster gives a comprehensive view of the issues fueling migrant discrimination and unemployment. Who can forget researcher Akhlaq Ahmad’s study in 2019 showed that Finnish labor markets are racialized and segregated once again? 

Write the authors of the Raster essay, Jawaria Khan, Olivia Maury, and Quivine Ndomo: “To conclude, Finland is not a fairyland of equal job opportunities. Instead, as we have argued, there exists a multiplicity of skilled and educated foreigners in Finland who face extensive challenges finding suitable work and means to legally remain in the country. In place of advocating for more, better, brighter talents, we should continue scrutinizing why knowledgeable people already in Finland do not seem to qualify for this pool of expertise. Is the objective to actually import ‘global talent,’ or is it so that only certain predefined figures with the right kind of social, ethnic and geographical background fit the category of ‘talent?'”

Many others don’t dispute that discrimination reinforced by institutional racism continues to be a major challenge. Some sources worth mentioning are: a report by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman published last year; and the European Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA) study that revealed that of 12 EU countries surveyed, people of African descent experienced in Finland the highest amount of racist harassment.

Moreover, several comprehensive shadow reports published by the European Network Against Racism and the European Islamophobia Report highlight anti-Muslim racism in the country.


Source: European Islamophobia Report

While there is no reason to question the findings of these studies, the most frustrating matter is that they don’t lead to concrete action by the state to tackle racism and discrimination.

In June, a Reform Migri panel discussion raised several important points on reforming the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri). One of these was by game designer Peter Vesterbacka because immigration policy and start-up goals are left to chance.

“This is the finger-pointing I was referring to: it’s the foreign ministry, it’s Migri, it’s TE-keskus (Employment Office),” he said. “And then if I ask what is the goal, how many start-ups do we want to attract a year to Finland, and who is in charge of that does anyone know or have the answer because I don’t know.”

Vesterbacka adds: “If you don’t know who is in charge, guess what, nobody is in charge.”

The Reform Migri webinar quoted Ahmed, who described the issue. Ahmed, who commutes weekly from Helsinki to Dusseldorf, said that “There was never a shortage of jobs going, just a shortage of mindset.”

Since we know that Finland has to tackle its racism and discrimination issues, the million-euro question remains: What next and how do we move forward?

For one, let’s raise our ambitions and goals with effective lobbying and activism.