Need for immigrant labour forecast

The debate about an approaching labour shortage continues in Finland. A new study by a business institute, reported by Helsingin Sanomat (12 June 2001), says that the current population trend will make it ever more urgent to obtain employees from abroad. The population is growing older and younger generations will not be able to meet the need for workers. Some industries could already use more foreign workers.

Tapio Wallenius, who prepared the report, says that refugees who are given leave to stay in Finland for humanitarian reasons are not a sufficient solution to overcome shortage of labour. He adds that the media has been concentrating too much on refugees. Refugees total only 20,000, whilst foreigners number almost 100,000.

Although there is currently much unemployment in the country, high-tech companies complain of a shortage of competent workers. The number of jobs in the electronics industry will grow by 15,000 by the year 2005. The education system finds it difficult to keep pace.

On the other hand, a high-ranking official from the Ministry of the Interior, Riitta Koponen, points out that in Finland, as in many other countries, the emphasis is on recruiting a labour force from abroad instead of creating employment for people who are already in the country. Unemployment amongst immigrants is over 30 per cent. Discounting the persons who have received state support for employment, the number rises to a staggering 60 per cent.

So far, there is no consensus on a planned reform of legislation related to immigrants. Wallenius thinks that the next government should include in its agenda a programme to develop asylum and immigration policies. He thinks this is urgent.

"Also Finnish attitudes should be helped to change. These days people hardly jump for joy when talk turns to an active immigration policy."

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