Finland Attracts Cheap Labour from Abroad

African cleaners, Nepalese waiters, Estonian snow-shovellers, Thai cosmetologists, Balkan taxi drivers and Polish construction workers all work long hours in Finland, and many of them do so with low pay.

Many immigrants work in the Helsinki region, where they are often on temporary jobs.
Berry pickers from Asia and the former Soviet Union are expected to flock to rural areas in the summer. Other types of seasonal agricultural work are also on offer.
The number of foreign employees is growing, but exact figures are hard to come by because there are no reliable statistics.
A year and a half ago it was estimated that there would have been between 30,000 and 40,000 temporary workers from abroad in Finland.
Olli Sorainen, a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, says that the number has not decreased. Not even the economic downturn has reduced the supply of temporary labour, as the cutbacks in the construction, transport, and service industries have primarily affected employees with long-term contracts. In fact, the slump has actually brought an increase in the number of foreign citizens working in Finland.
“When the market recovers, we will need even more temporary foreign labour”, Sorainen says.
Finnish employers have found that certain rigid structures in the Finnish labour market, including the difficulty of sacking employees with contracts, have proven to be a problem for Finnish employers.
Sorainen says that temporary workers from abroad are a way to solve this problem, and it is relatively easy to recruit such labour from Estonia and other countries that joined the European Union in 2004 and 2007.
Meanwhile, Finland has about 58,000 long-term unemployed in Finland.
There are many Finns with professional skills and long work experience in the construction industry who cannot get work, while temporary workers from other countries are recruited to Finnish construction sites.
“The official explanation is that Finns might not have the precise professional skills required, or that the skills have dwindled. However, the person who is hired can easily be someone who has not worked in construction a single day”, Sorainen notes.
The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has sent a message to the government negotiators urging that keeping tabs on foreign temporary labour and the monitoring of the terms of employment should be included in the next government programme.
Arja Pohjola, a lawyer at the Service Union United PAM has occasionally had to go to court to get Finnish employers to pay foreign employees what they are owed.
Pohjola also sees that Finnish attitudes toward work have changed, with young people apparently preferring unemployment to taking a job as a cleaner.
“I have no facts to back it up, but this is what it looks like”, she says.
According to a report drafted for Helsingin Sanomat by Statistics Finland, foreign employees in the lodging and restaurant business and in cleaning are paid less in Finland than Finnish employees are.
However, Statistics Finland researcher Pekka Myrskylä says that in health care services and the pharmaceutical industry, foreigners actually earn more than native Finns. The foreign employees in health care services bring home more than EUR 5,000 more a year on average than Finnish workers do.
Foreign employees comprise less than two per cent of the labour force in health care services. The highest proportion of foreigners is in cleaning, where they comprise 16.5 per cent of employees in the sector.
The biggest gaps in earnings are in construction and in the wholesale trade, where the annual income of native-born Finns is more than EUR 10,000 higher than that of foreign-born employees in the two sectors.
PAM has found that foreign employees are often not paid proper compensation for overtime and for work during weekends and holidays.
Teachers in higher education and IT professionals are generally paid well whether or not they are Finns.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *