Don’t cry Finland if you don’t like migrants

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest-circulation daily, writes in an editorial about why the country needs labor migrants to secure economic growth and services offered by the welfare state. We are at a critical crossroads: It is the first time in history that more people die than there are newborns.

While the editorial invites debate on Finland’s serious demographic woes, it is misleading because it only highlights the usual talking points by leaving out new arguments offered by brown and black Finn migrant researchers.

The reaction of some Finns can turn violent against migrants and minorities, as we saw after the Turku stabbings in 2017 by a Moroccan asylum seeker. Source: Migrant Tales

The editorial bases its call for more labor migrants on the pension insurance group Varma CEO Risto Murto’s book, Puuttuvat puoli miljoonaa, The missing half a million.

Murto’s book does not reveal anything new about Finland’s demographic woes. Over one-fourth of about 8% of Finland’s foreign population in 2020 lives in Helsinki; in 2035, it will rise to over a third; the low employment levels of people who came to Finland as refugees.

While Murto does not explain why the employment level of Afghans, Iraqis, Somalis, and other people of color is low in Finland, he and Helsingin Sanomat leave out the fact that their employment level rises the longer they live in Finland.

For some odd reason, the Helsingin Sanomat editorial and Murto forget to mention that refugees in Finland comprise about 10% of all foreigners. As we know and have seen, Finland’s hostile environment against visible migrants spread by parties like the far-right Perussuomalaiset (PS)*, National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Christian Democrats, and others.

When they attack foreigners, such parties speak of this group as one group, “migrants.”

Finland has historically shunned immigrants, even if it is a country of emigrants. In the 1970s, when hundreds of thousands of Finns were moving to Sweden, the country decided against labor immigration to plug the economically active population deficit.

Several questions arise on how Finland could be a magnet for labor migrants. Less bureaucracy, family reunification, child education, Finnish- and Swedish-language lessons.

Of all of the factors Murto believes would attract labor migrants, the most important one is missing: a migrant and minority-friendly society that is inclusive.

The latter is easier said than done. Historically and politically today, Finland has shot itself in the demographic leg by allowing its suspicion of outsiders to overtake the better of them.

The debate is so lopsided that we are constantly reminded about the dangers of embarking on Sweden’s path, even if that country’s economy has grown thanks to migration.


How come Finland’s biggest opposition parties, the PS and Kokoomus, constantly speak of all migrants as a threat? The prime motivator in this type of hatred is to seek and gain political power.

As long as we continue to see others as a threat to Finland, as long as we continue to label them as outsiders and undesirables, the greater the harm will be to our future.

The editorial should have addressed this crucial fact.

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