What should an immigrant do if he cannot find work in Finland?

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri

What should you do if you live in Finland and cannot find employment? The lucky ones can move to another country but for many it is a crude dead-end street lined with little hope: fragmented work life, lower salary than average, health problems and, worse, discrimination that will discourage you to integrate.  

There is an interesting article in Sunday’s Helsingin Sanomat on page A8 about a U.S. citizen, Ryan Savage, who is married to a Finn.

“USAmerican Ryan Savage is a dream come true for the immigration officials:  university graduate that moved with his spouse to Finland. He speaks the most widely spoken language in the world [English]. The problem is that Savage cannot find any work in Finland.”

Helsingin Sanomat claims that immigrant men make on average 10,000 euros less than Finnish men, while the difference [6,000 euros] is less between immigrant and Finnish women.

Other sad realities about being an immigrant in this country are that you have a greater chance of living in poverty than Finnish families and have twice as greater chance of being attacked by another person than a Finn. One study showed that immigrant men have 50% more ear ailments than Finnish males.

If the above is true, we should be especially concerned and critical about those parties that play down the role prejudice and racism in this country. All these social and physical symptoms mentioned above are indirectly or directly related to social ills like exclusion.

But if a politician, political party or society deny that racism is not a big social problem in this country and that everything is fine, it is effectively telling you that they will not do anything to tackle the problems of our ever-growing immigrant community.  Thus you do not exist. Since you don’t exist there is no reason to even worry never mind begin addressing your problems.

There are many ways of confronting the apathy or denial of the majority concerning our community: get involved in a political party, form a social movement, start up a blog like Migrant Tales or Facebook page like My Finland is International, or simply leave Finland for greener pastures.

Everyone isn’t that fortunate that he or she can just move to anther country. Some are forced to face that depressing  music that eats away at your self-esteem and keeps you from realizing your full potential in this society.

A society like ours that claims to be for social justice and equality cannot accept prejudice, exclusion and inequality in any form.

While first-generation immigrants should raise their voices in Finland and demand changes, it is their children  that are our hope.

Some of them have seen enough of how their parents have been excluded from the labor market and are getting the short end of society’s stick.

They, rightfully, have a valid gripe and should demand far better than what their parents got.

It’s time to organize, be and think proactively.

  1. justicedemon

    Ryan Savage is by no means the worst example of this kind. Yesterday evening I reviewed a negative naturalisation decision received by an immigrant in his early 40s who has lived in Finland for the whole of his adult life and has two Finnish school age children. The sole grounds for turning down the application were that the applicant had spent too much time working in another European Union country. There is no question that he was comfortably qualified for citizenship before taking this temporary assignment abroad, nor is there any question that his formal domicile and family home have remained in Finland throughout. His work abroad was associated with a doctoral programme. He completed this successfully and secured his PhD in microbiology, but since returning to Finland a year ago he still cannot find work.

    Although I consider the negative decision to be technically correct, I am also acutely aware that the detailed provisions of the Nationality Act were never intended to have consequences of this kind. In this specific case, the applicant is expected to spend at least two (effectively three) further years of enforced idleness in Finland before he can secure citizenship. In effect the Nationality Act prevents him from doing what any Finnish citizen in his situation would do: selling his skills on the internal labour market in order to provide for his family.

    • Enrique

      Hi JusticeDemon, thank you for bringing this up. It is indeed a sad example that shows how this country has not dealt seriously with integration despite politicians stressing its importance. If you want to see how our integration policies have failed, I recommend officials and Finns to look at the children of immigrants, who still feel like “foreigners” despite having lived here most of their lives.

      –In effect the Nationality Act prevents him from doing what any Finnish citizen in his situation would do: selling his skills on the internal labour market in order to provide for his family.

      So what you are saying in effect is that an immigrant must throw away 2-3 year of his life to “integrate” legally.

      How unfortunate!

    • Enrique

      JusticeDemon, taking the case of the man who got a negative nturalization decision, how do you think things should change.

  2. Anonymous

    Could you please tell me what this magical “other country” is that you keep writing about?!? Because racism is even more portrayed in the US, in the neighbouring country, Sweden, which harbors the most immigrants in the world, by percentage, the racism is also far more agressive and present than in Finland. I have lived in all three countries and have multinational socialgroups in each if them. What I can say is that Finland is the ONLY country where you can get a job by NOT speaking the native tongue. It might not be fancy, but since there also is a very high minimun salary limit, you will earn a decent pay, compared to the US for example. And surely NO ONE has to live in “poverty” in Finland, since the social security system pays your rent and food when you’re unemployed. In the US you would end up in the street. Woul I get employement in the US with my degree but if I spoke only Finnish? I don’t think so. So why should an US ciyizen get employed in FINLAND when he doesn’t speak FINNISH. Where is this magical country, where an immigrant don’t have to speak the native tongue but still gets employment, and don’t have to “live in poverty”?!? ALL of my immigrant friends have found employment if they wanted to, but of course it’s obvious that these are jobs where you don’t communicate to customers etc. if you don’t speak the languahe. But in Sweden you won’t even be hired as a lonely dishwasher, or cleaning personnel, if you don’t speak pretty fluent Swedish. So do tell me, WHAT is this “other country” you speak of???

    • Enrique

      Hy Anynymous and welcome to Migrant Tales.

      I am certain that your views on poverty in Finland will raise some questions. Do you think that living off social welfare isn’t living in poverty? True and certainly poverty in Finland is different than it would be in Appalachia or in Bolivia.

      I like and defend Finland’s social welfare system. It’s many times better than what we have in the U.S.

      –So do tell me, WHAT is this “other country” you speak of???

      That “other” country is right under our noses. It’s in the values and spirit of the laws, which hinge on social equality. Finland has built a good society for the Finns but is struggling to incorporate immigrants and Finns with international backgrounds.

      You have read our constitution and are aware what kind of a society we live in and aspire to be. That it what I am referring to.

  3. Seppo

    What can we say about Ryan Savage?

    The article didn’t say from which field he has his degree. Looking at the jobs he had been looking for, I believe its marketing or business administration or something like that.

    I know several people with similar background. They are not USAmericans, but mainly use the English language in Finland. For them it was not easy to find a job, but most, if not all, eventually did. The difference is that all of them speak at least some other languages besides English – Russian, Polish, French, German – and that might have helped. Many of them had studied in Finland and started learning Finnish being able to show at least some knowledge in the language.

    This is the classical language problem again. I fell sorry for Ryan, he looks like a really nice guy, but you have to admit that in a labour market where most highly educated people speak at least three languages, speaking only one, even if it happens to be English, is not enough. So that’s something he should focus on.

    All and all, foreigners with marketing/business backgrounds, together with engineers, are actually those people who can find jobs better than others. Still I think Finnish employees could be more relaxed with the language requirements. The question remains: if you have two candidates out of which both speak good English but only the other one good Finnish, is it discrimination to hire the Finnish-speaker? I guess there are cases where it could be so – if the job does not require absolutely no Finnish at all – but in most cases it is quite understandable.

  4. Tommi

    It is my understanding that the article from today’s Helsingin Sanomat is not complete, presenting the problem partially and with a bias, stemming from a single case. I have googled “Ryan Savage” and not knowing that person, there has been previous articles on the same topic for him a year or so ago. Sometimes the country is to be blamed, sometimes the person… in any case too subjective for me to judge it.

    What is important though, that is the fact that to be entitled to job seeking, you must conform to some eligibility criteria. In Savage’s case, he seems to be a student in Helsinki University (found through Google again), so he is by rule as any Finnish person not entitled to employment office assistance. Job seeking is possible, but not through the official institutions as we finns can not be students and officially job seekers in the same time. Second, Enrique says that Savage is married to a Finnish person, but in today’s HS article it is mentioned that he has a girlfriend. In a way that you are recognized as belonging to this society, there shall be some bonds officially distinguished, and marriage is such. What is going to happen to a country of 5,5 million if all boyfriends and girlfriends of finns start awaiting social responsibility from the state. There are foreigners who also have Finnish citizenship by naturalization and have foreign spouses, but ideally there shall be marriage so to expect anything from the state.

    I am not against freemovers, but after all while the case of one american get publicized, there a lot more cases of non-americans that remain forgotten.Therefore an unbiased journalistic article shall look not on one specific case but shall try to grasp a more diverse picture. Therefore I also find the article in HS today a one not deserving a merit due to its bias and one-sidedness.

  5. Allan

    Enrique, try to get your facts straight even once. Ryan Savage came to Finland to do his Master’s degree. While here he met someone and hitched up. The article also reads he had been an exchange student in Vaasa in his teen years.

    Now unless he happened to be in a Swedish-speaking family in Vaasa, he should have been able to pick up rudimentary Finnish. Also, he studied in University of Tampere which surely has more than enough opportunities to study Finnish.

    Now as for his masters degree in “Political Science” his thesis title is aptly “Comparison of the Immigrant Integration Policies of Sweden and Finland in Light of the EU Framework on Immigrant Integration”. So in other words, a quite useless line of study unless you are aspiring for a government job.

    So what do we have here. A person who has been in Finland for more than 5 years and hasn’t been able to pick up the language even he has a Finnish spouse. that spells out two things – either he is thick or then he has an attitude problem.

    What the immigrant men should do, is learn the skills required to do the job instead of whining about racism.

  6. Allan

    “Other sad realities about being an immigrant in this country are that you have a greater chance of living in poverty than Finnish families and have twice as greater chance of being attacked by another person than a Finn.”

    Other sad realities is you are more likely to commit a crime, get caught smuggling drugs and end up in jail than a Finn. Might correlate to the bit in getting attacked though, as it is the friends you keep usually are the perpetrators in Finland.

    “One study showed that immigrant men have 50% more ear ailments than Finnish males.”

    And how is that due to racism exactly? Unless its a genetic failure – its got to do with not wearing any ear protection. Is it discrimination now for the Finns to demand everyone in building sites has protective gear? Well, all the Finns do, but the “multicultural” jobsites don’t give much a damn of rules and regulations. And this is exactly how the Finns’ fault the foreigners do it to themselves?

  7. justicedemon


    Everyone with any significant knowledge of the subject agrees that the 2003 Nationality Act is a clear improvement compared to the 1968 Act. The rules on qualifying periods make a genuine effort to balance the national interest with the reasonable expectations of applicants. We were aware when the legislation was drafted that it is difficult to set down hard and fast criteria defining when an immigrant is sufficiently integrated to be regarded as naturalised in an informal sense.

    Aside from one highly unfortunate secret evidence case, the situations that have fostered the greatest and best justified feelings of unfair treatment tend to concern applicants who have already unquestionably qualified for citizenship at some point, but whose work or personal circumstances then require them to spend considerable periods away from Finland. In the clearest case of this kind a foreign mother and her pre-school age children were given a de facto choice between their family life and their citizenship applications when the father was posted abroad. This posting occurred several months after the citizenship application had been filed.

    At least one improvement worth considering is to reckon the residential condition as of the time when the application was filed, and not as of the time when the decision is made. This could be subject to reasonable qualifications, such as ensuring that there has been no change of domicile (in other words, the absence from Finland is temporary). It is clearly unreasonable to disqualify an applicant who has already qualified for citizenship simply because of behaviour that is entirely customary and normal among citizens, such as working or studying abroad, or accompanying a family member who does so.

    I shall probably set out my concerns on this subject to the relevant committee when the statute is next reviewed.

  8. MaryMekko

    No where on this planet does anyone or any nation owe you a living. If you believe this, time to move to North Korea or Cuba. If Ryan Savage, by name an Irish-American, after five years in beloved Finland with a wife and Master’s Degree, cannot master Finnish, then the dude’s a loser. Sorry! Ryan, I spent six months in Finland as a hitchhiker/friend of Finns, and I loved the sound of the language and attempted to learn it right off the bat, with the help of books, libraries, newspapers and TV, since I couldn’t afford any university classes. I didn’t get very far, but those Finns who come on my San Francisco tourbuses are impressed with my vocabulary and pronunciation. It indicates at the least a great interest in the culture, people, and heritage of Finland. Why, one must ask, does Ryan REFUSE to learn it?

    Ryan is no fool, unless he was raised as a spoiled-rotten suburban idiot of the liberal type. If he could get his act together to apply to study in Finland, even in that silly subject he chose, he’s got brains enough to find a job. He knows full well that back in the USA he’d drive taxi, work in restaurants or grocery stores, or do anything to bring money home. Especially if a man is married, he’d be humiliated to let his wife or Finnish taxpayers pay his bills! If he were still just a world-travelling bum, the prospect may appeal, but how old is he, and how long has he been married?

    Why not move back to the USA, land of opportunity, and his wife – no doubt an English speaker, or how do they communicate? – will probably be the first to find a job, while he’ll whine that there’s nothing he can do. Sorry, over here, we say LOSER!!!! Get with it, Ryan!

    San Francisco is full of these former Trustafarians, who’ve never worked at any real job, by their mid-20’s or 30’s they still haven’t got a clue what it is to get up and do something. Study, oh yeah…. a pile of papers that wiill get Ryan nothing but the Finns’ taxmoney. Another parasite for dear old Finland! If those Finns had guts, they’d give him not just an earache, but a good boxing on his ears! (And the politicians who set up this nonsense)

  9. Päivi & Santeri

    > Everyone isn’t that fortunate that he or she can just move to anther country.

    Otherwise great blog post,but we can’t agree with this. Everyone can choose to leave any country any time. It depends solely on the will of the person. Of course one can find all kinds of excuses to claim otherwise, but if there is strong enough will, nothing can stop it.

    The same applies to Finns. We are a Finnish couple who chose to leave Finland in 2004 to travel the world.

    Greetings from Melbourne,

    Päivi & Santeri

    • Enrique

      Hi Päivi & Santeri, welcome to Migrant Tales from Australia! My daughter was living with her boyfriend in Geelong for about half a year.

      Having many world travelers in my family, one good example they gave me was that a person can change his situation by moving somewhere else. You need guts, intelligence, hope and money to move to another country. Some may lack money while others may lack courage. It depends on the person as you wrote.

      We hope to hear more of your views and about your travels.

      Thank you for dropping by!

  10. Allan

    Justicedemon, foreigners make out 12% of the prison population. Of course according to you all those sentenced are innocent, because of “racism”.

    • Enrique

      Allan, “12% of the population?” Where did you get that figure?

  11. Allan

    The latest figure was 13% of the prison population from the 2009 yearbook of the RISE. Then again compared to the statistics of other countries it is not that high. It is somewhat interesting compared with the 0,5% of the prison population being foreigners in 1990, that correlated with the % of foreign population in the country.

    To answer your question: The immigrant shouldn’t aspire to end up as a statistic in this publication: http://www.rikosseuraamus.fi/51197.htm

  12. justicedemon

    And more to the point, how many of them are immigrants?

    If you think that doesn’t matter, then explain how you calculated your percentage so that the base sample is the same in the numerator and the denominator. Also explain how you included Finns banged up abroad. When you get locked up for fraud in London and sent to Finland to serve your sentence, will you count as a “Finnish” or “foreign” criminal? Never mind, you can still follow Kike into politics.

    “Foreigners” are responsible for most of the child rapes committed in Thailand since 1990. One Finn was alone responsible for 445 of those child rapes, but he was fortunate enough to be arrested only after returning to Finland (“Finnish” or “foreign” criminal?). That was in 2005, so with time off for good behaviour he should be out of jail with a new identity by now and looking for a Finnish political party to join. Perhaps one that appoints convicted rapists like Matti Putkonen and Carl J. Danhammer to positions of influence.

  13. justicedemon


    The word ulkomaalainen only appears once in the RISE yearbook. The figure of 13 per cent does not appear at all in the context that you suggest. Instead I found the following:

    Ulkomaalaisten vankien päivittäinen keskimäärä nousi peräti 14 prosenttia edellisvuoteen verrattuna, 325:stä 370:een.

    According to the table at the bottom of page 12, the daily average inmate population in 2009 was 3492, so even on this very crude basis, I reckon your percentage figure should be about 10.6.

    The term maahanmuuttaja is not used at all in this report. Please note that although immigrants (in the relevant sense) make up about 2 per cent of the population of Finland, at least a couple of million foreigners visit Finland every year in one capacity or another. There is no way to avoid this, short of shutting down the tourism industry, withdrawing from international trade, closing down foreign business connections/investment and putting an end to the international conference sector.

    The RISE yearbook figure includes remand prisoners, administrative detainees and persons awaiting expulsion or extradition. Again you must explain whether and how you adjusted your calculations to compensate for this. Remand prisoners are by definition innocent (and even if subsequently convicted, they should not be counted twice over in the same statistics). Administrative detainees include certain categories of overstayer (foreign by definition, but seldom immigrants since permanent residence permits were introduced in 1991) and certain categories of conscientious objector (as indicated in the footnote to the table at the top of page 13, and Finnish by definition). Persons awaiting expulsion or extradition are almost exclusively foreign, hardly ever immigrants, and innocent in Finnish law by definition (unless you want to stress that the law is different for citizens and foreigners, since no citizen can be held pending expulsion proceedings, and citizen extradition is rare indeed). If you include these categories, then your figures cannot be in any way comparable unless you also include the corresponding statistics for Finnish prisoners abroad and persons awaiting removal to Finland.

    I realise that the foregoing is beyond the wit of the average epähikke in a suburban keskiolut baari, but the fact that such people cannot see through your lies does not make them true.

    Where did you get that figure of 13 per cent, anyway?

    • Enrique

      Allan, I could also take a pedophile case in Thailand and state that “all Finnish tourists are pedophiles.” It would be ridiculous as what you are claiming.

      My great grandfather, Dante Tessieri, was a refugee and left Italy for Brazil in the 1890s. Thanks to these type of countries, like Finland, people can escape persecution.

      The problem in Finland today is that we have a conservative minister of the interior, Päivi Räsänen, who thinks that homosexuality is bad. She speaks of “Christian values like the family” but is ready to tighten such rules for refugees. All that you are seeing is hypocrisy and weak leadership — or just barely keeping their political heads above water for the time being.

  14. justicedemon


    I responded to that silly news item in another thread.

    Now let’s hear your mea culpa concerning the bogus statistic that you provided in this thread, and the shortcomings in your own Finnish reading comprehension skills.


  15. MaryMekko

    Allan, don’t let them think you’re drinking. Finns love to label anything that they disagree with as “drunken behavior.” If you really have opinioins, stick to them!

    Let the Finns do the drinking, the puking, the passing out, the freezing to death at busstops.

  16. justicedemon

    Right on time, the Finnish Border Guard has issued a press release indicating that the total number of border crossings exceeded ten million for the first time in 2011.

    If we generously allow that 10 per cent of these border crossings were made by Finnish citizens and foreigners domiciled in Finland, that still leaves more than 9 million border crossings made by visiting foreigners. Again conservatively assuming an average temporary stay in Finland not exceeding 48 hours, this means that on a daily basis the foreign population of Finland exceeds the foreign immigrant population by at least 24,500 simply due to the impact of temporary visitors. On this very crude basis, it is already necessary to make a downward adjustment of at least 8 per cent in any statistic that fails to distinguish between foreign immigrants and foreigners in general. This is before making further adjustments for such factors as the relevant age profile of visitors.

  17. MaryMekko

    Enrique, your great grandfather, Dante Tessieri, was a refugee and left Italy for Brazil in the 1890’s. What persecution was he escaping at that time?

    Or was he an economic refugee? Did he receive welfare, housing, etc in Brazil, or did he go to work? Did he just marry and live off a woman?

    I am curious about your family and its persecutions. Why did they leave Brazil for USA? More persecution?

    And then you leave USA to escape…what? A real job?

    • Enrique

      –There were too many weirdos in California.

      That too as well as a long list of other reasons.

  18. MaryMekko

    Enrique, are you Jewish? 1890’s was the time of pogroms in Europe against Jews, although I am not sure that Italy was driving them out except around Florence.

    I love that word, po-grom. It’s Russian, meaning “like lightning”, as the Cossacks did strike like lightning. Donner and blitzen! Now that’s a better expresssion for English speakers to understand how things were within the Pale of Settlement of the Tsars.

    Weirdos in California – by the boatload! That’s why I smell one in you…one gets good at smelling them out in SF.

  19. Henry

    I am a software developer with 4+ year experience, graduated from Finnish university and can’t a job in Helsinki. Companies don’t give any reasons why they decline my applications. So far I haven’t got any interview. My former classmate who is Finnish and have 0 experience has had a few interviews and found a job in the same company I applied for. I guess it’s time for me to move to other less racists country.

    • Migrant Tales

      Henry and welcome to our blog, Migrant Tales. I am sorry to hear what has happened. Keep on trying or go to that country that offers you work and a future.