How immigrants in Finland find a job

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Our blog this week talks about how immigrants in Finland find a job. This blog is based on a recently published report from the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare.

We have talked about these topics also in some of our previous blogs. We have, for example, discussed Rolle Aalto’s study of international students and how they found out about employment opportunities. We’ve discussed what kind of employers will most likely create new jobs. And we have explained why employers in Finland hire new people and how they find those they want to hire.   

In another blog, we looked at what recruiters in Finland have to say about the channels they use to find applicants and what they consider important candidate information.  

We have distilled these and our additional expertise into an online course. In it, we tell you how you can build a winning job search strategy for the Finnish job market. Just click on the ad below and you’ll be able to purchase this inexpensive online course. 

Dreaming of a career in Finland? Our “Your Job Search Strategy in Finland” online course helps you build a winning job search strategy for the Finnish job market.

Now we’ll turn to this new report. 

Background information on the study

Jalonen, Mäkipää, Lilja, Nykänen, and Kuusio’s full study examines persons who were born abroad and who come from a foreign background. They took a sample of 600 such persons from each of the 18 counties (maakunta) of Finland and the six cities they had selected for this study. These cities are Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa, Oulu, and Turku. 

They collected the survey data mostly via an online questionnaire, but they also used a paper version. The researchers also conducted some phone interviews. In Espoo, they did home visits. 

They got responses from 53.1 % of the sampled individuals. The response rate varied between areas. The lowest rate (46 %) was in Southern Ostrobothia and the highest (60 %) in Central Finland and Northern Savo. 

In the analysis, these and other variations were weighted. The information we summarize here only applies to those who were employed at the time of the study and who had answered the long version of their questionnaire. 

By the way, “foreign background” refers to the definition used by Statistics Finland. It means a person whose parents or the only known parent was born abroad. In this study, also the sampled individuals themselves were born outside of Finland.  

How immigrants in Finland find a job

The most common ways to find a job in Finland for immigrants were asking employers for a job directly (28 %) and finding employment through friends or acquaintances (24 %). 

Around 19 % found work by sending in an application as a response to a job ad. 

Employers themselves approached the job seeker in 10 % of the cases. 

About the same number of people found employment through an internship related to their studies. Very rarely did they find work through the TE office or private employment agencies (ca. 5 % respectively).

How immigrants in Finland find a job: breakdown of survey results by nationality

There were some differences between nationalities in how these immigrants found work in Finland. 

For example, immigrants from the former Soviet Union countries and Asia most often found a job by contacting employers directly (26 % and 29 % respectively), sending an application as a response to an ad (22 % and 21 %), or via friends and acquaintances (20 % and 22 %). Immigrants from Estonia, instead, most often found a job via friends or acquaintances (39 %).  

Immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa most often relied on direct contacts with employers to find a job (33 %). 

For them, finding a job through an internship is almost (12 %) as effective as sending applications for open positions (13 %). The effectiveness of internships was in the double digits also for immigrants coming from the former Soviet Union countries (10 %) and the rest of Africa (11 %).

Sending an application for an open position was most effective for immigrants from the EU, EFTA, and North America. 24 % of them had found a job that way. Also for them, however, contacting employers directly was the most effective (25 %) method.

For all nationalities, TE office and private employment services offered little help. Depending on the nationality, the effectiveness of the TE office varied from 3 to 9 %. The effectiveness of private employment services varied from 3 to 7 %.

Some additional differences

There are some differences between women and men of the same nationality in terms of how they find employment. 

For example, for men from the Middle East and Africa networks of friends and acquaintances are a significant avenue for employment (20 %). Such networks offer little help for women from the same region (6-7 %).  

For women from the Middle East and North Africa, the TE office is clearly a more effective way to find a job (19 %) than it is for men (6 %) from the same region.

There weren’t that many differences in employment methods between different Finnish regions. In 16 of the 18 regions, the most effective way to find employment for immigrants was to approach employers directly. Only in Kanta Häme and Southwest Finland, some other way was more effective. In Kanta Häme, connections with friends and acquaintances (34 %) were more likely to result in a job than directly approaching employers (27 %). Open applications were more effective in Southwest Finland than directly approaching employers (28 % vs. 22 %). 

In Uusimaa, directly approaching employers and networks were almost neck-in-neck in importance (27 % and 26 % respectively). 

Interpreting the results

Interpreting these results against what we already know about the Finnish labor market is somewhat complicated by the fact that it’s difficult to discern what these different response options actually mean. For example, when a respondent says they have approached the employer directly and asked for a job, does it really mean they’ve contacted the employer out of the blue? Without any indication that the employer is looking for new people? 

We know, however, that employers use their current and former employees to find candidates for open positions. Is it possible that such information could act as a prompt to contact the employer? And surely that information has reached the potential applicant somehow, perhaps through an acquaintance? Still, the respondent may not think they’ve gained the job via the said acquaintance. These problems plague all similar surveys. 

Nevertheless, these results show that the strategies foreign job seekers use to find a job do not significantly differ from those used by Finnish-born job seekers. In the often-cited Sitra survey from 2017, for example, a somewhat similar share of respondents said had gotten their current job by approaching the employer directly.  We also know how important networks are in the Finnish job market.

By taking our online course, you will learn how you can find the right employers in Finland and how you start to build yourself a meaningful network through which information about interesting opportunities will reach you.

Behind the scenes?

Looking closely, these results also give us hints about what may be happening behind the scenes. 

For example, for Estonians networks are more important than they are for other nationalities. Estonians are by far the largest immigrant group in Finland. They’ve also been in Finland for many years. As such they are an established group and a significant source of labor in many industries. There are also plenty of Estonian-owned companies in Finland. It is thus understandable that information about jobs flows through their networks to those seeking employment. 

In addition, the large difference in the effectiveness of job applications for those coming from the EU, EFTA, and North America (24 %) and for those from the Middle East and North Africa (13 %) most likely provides additional evidence of racism and discrimination in the Finnish labor market.

There is only so much we can learn from the way these survey results are currently presented. These two examples, however, suggest what we could learn with some additional analysis and examination.


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The mission of Finnwards is to help internationals thrive in their life abroad. We provide coaching, consulting, and training services that help them do just that. Check out our Services for Businesses and Organizations or our Expat Inspiration Catalog for more information! While we serve internationals and their employers all over the world, our specialty is Finland. With our help, internationals can build a uniquely Finnish life for themselves and their family. In addition to the coaching, consulting and training services, we also offer a wide selection of self-guided online courses about Finland. Contact us and let us help you or your employees succeed in their professional and private lives abroad and in Finland.

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