YLE A-studio talk show’s question and image sum up Finland’s migration and demographic challenges ahead

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Monday’s A-studio talk show debated Finland’s low birthrate and what the country could do to challenge the threats of an ageing and shrinking population as well as how migration could ease such woes. Present at the talk show were Left Alliance chairwoman Li Andersson, Justice Minister (National Coalition Party) Antti Häkkänen, and Nordea bank economist Olli Kärkkäinen.

While there was nothing new that said at the talk show, there was one question and one image that summed it up.

Kärkkäinen asked a very important question: “Even if politicians are so much in agreement that we need migrants, especially labor migrants, why has so little been done?”

The host asks the Nordea economist to answer his question.

“It’s easy to speak here [in these talk shows] about students staying to live in Finland and get a residence permit if they search for work,” he continued. “We can slash red tape, give out residence permit faster, but for some reason, there is little progress [in changing the present situation]. Let’s hope that demographic pressures will bring changes [faster] when the next government takes power.”

One reason why the present government has done so little is the Perussuomalaisiet*, and Blue Reform, which are populist anti-immigration parties. The former was in government but after it split into two factions in 2017, the Blue Reform is in government even if it popularity in opinion polls hovers around 2%.

Finland will hold parliamentary elections in April 2019.

Another striking feature of the talk show was the background picture of a migrant working as a cleaner.

Is this how YLE and Finland see migrants? Are they just cheap labor to do menial work that Finns don’t want to do?

Watch the full A-studio talk show here. Can’t foreigners do anything better than work for cleaning companies?

Considering Finland’s ineffective and inhumane immigration policy, and if the migrant gets a residence permit, his or her rights at the workplace are far from satisfactory.

Recently, Bengt Holmström, a Finnish economist who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2016, said that migrants should be paid less and get lower social security because it would not irritate Finns so much.

Holmström appears not to know that migrants already get paid less in Finland and get lower social welfare.

Pasi Suakkonen’s study, Maahanmuuttajen kotoutuminen Helsingissä (2016), points out that migrants made annually in 2016 on average nationally 27.3% less (21,479 euros versus 29,550 euros by Finns), and in Helsinki 38.5% less (22,286 euros versus 36,239 euros) than white Finns.

If migrants, who also suffer from 2-3 times higher unemployment than the national average, get lower salaries it means that their social welfare benefits will be lower as well.

According to Statistics Finland researcher Pekka Myrskylä, the gap in unemployment benefits between migrants and Finns is 39% (15,000 euros versus 9,400 euros) and up to 59% for those who are outside the labor force (7,500 euros versus 3,100 euros).

“Generous social welfare benefits to migrants appear to be an urban legend,” he said. “Since migrants make a quarter less than natives, welfare benefits are smaller since they hinge on earnings-related subsidies.”

Apart from attracting migrants to Finland, migrants can fall prey to exploitation and low-paying jobs.

The Perussuomalaiset (PS) party imploded on June 13, 2017 into two factions, the PS and New Alternative, which is now called Blue Reform. Despite the name changes, we believe that it is the same party in different clothing. Both factions are hostile to cultural diversity never mind Muslims and other visible minorities. One is more open about it while the other says it in a different way. 

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.