Study: If you have a “foreign”-sounding name, you will need more than luck to get work

by , under Enrique Tessieri


A new study published by Akhlaq Ahmad about labor market discrimination in Finland and the results, while not pretty, reinforce what we’ve known all along: ethnic discrimination is commonplace in Finland’s labor markets.

On Saturday, Migrant Tales published a news story that showed that the number of work permits granted to EU citizens had fallen by 28.1% from 2015 to 2018.

It should not come to any surprise that Finland’s labor markets are unfriendly, and there is not enough opportunity for career advancement. Two- to three-time higher unemployment on average of migrants is another disincentive.

The new study by Ahmad, which was published in the Sociological Inquiry, does not look at first-generation migrants but their children, who are, on average, 11 years old today and will enter the labor market in a few years.

Read the full story here.

Since fluency in the Finnish language and knowledge of the local culture are common excuses not to hire first-generation migrants, their children should have a good command of the language and culture since they grew up in Finland.

The results of the study showed that out of 5,000 job applications, those with Finnish names got way more requests for interviews by the employer.

As the table shows, people with Finnish names got a lot more requests for job interviews than any other name. While 390 people with Finnish names got interview requests, the corresponding figure for those with Iraqi and Somali names was 134 and 99, respectively. The two other groups in the study were those with English (269 requests) and Russian (228) names. Women (naiset) got more requests for interviews than men (miehet). Source: When the Name Matters: An Experimental Investigation of ethnic discrimination in the Finnish Labor market. Ahmad Akhalq, University of Helsinki.

While the result of the study should not surprise us, the value of its findings is that job discrimination in Finland is real and hinges of a person’s perceived ethnic background.

Ahmed was quoted as saying in Yle that discrimination in the labor market does not only take place when looking for a job but as early as in comprehensive school when children are in the TET familiarization working life program.

The researcher correctly points out that labor discrimination and racism are significant challenges to Finland unless we want to continue to maintain a two-tier society of haves and have-nots.

Doing something about racism and discrimination

While social ills like racism, and especially institutional racism, maintain and feed the present racialized system, the question we should also ask is how to challenge such issues.

Ahmad points out that anonymous job applications, which are a good start, could help. But we need bolder steps. One of these would be waking up from our denial and exceptionalism with the help of anti-racism activism and creating social movements.

Waking up to our racism problem may be easier said than done as long as mainstream parties do not wake up to the threat of the Islamophobic Perussuomalaiset (PS)* party and other far-right groups that continue to fuel the hostile environment.

Fascism and xenophobia à la PS are not only a threat to our Nordic democracy but to the social and economic wellbeing of Finland. When the National Coalition Party and the Center Party send signals that they could play political ball with the PS, it strengthens the present injust order of things.

We have good anti-discrimination laws in Finland but our own racism and exceptionalism give racists and closet white supremacists the benefit of doubt.

If we do not challenge effectively labor discrimination and racism in Finland, non-white Finns will suffer as they do today from lower social welfare, lower salaries, lower pensions and continue being at the bottom of the barrel of society.

*A direct translation of Perussuomalaiset in English would be something like “basic” or “fundamental Finn.” Official translations of the Finnish name of the party, such as Finns Party or True Finns, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and racism. We, therefore, at Migrant Tales prefer to use in our postings the Finnish name of the party once and after that the acronym PS.