Job seekers’ views on the Finnish labor shortage

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We’ve published some articles on the Finnish labor shortage. Often, the point of view has been the point of view of Finnish employers. In this blog, however, we take a different approach and discuss how job seekers view the apparent mismatch in the labor market. 

Mismatch here refers to the simultaneous existence of high unemployment and recorded recruitment problems. 

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Some background for our topic

In our previous discussions of labor shortages and labor market mismatch, we’ve relied on different types of government reports or sources (eg. the Occupational Barometer). 

For example, in our blog “What’s with the talk of labor shortages in Finland?” we discussed the reasons why employers say they are finding it difficult to find suitable employees. This discussion was based on a 2020 Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment report on employee acquisition in Finland. 

According to the report, 91 % of employers placed the blame for their recruitment difficulties on the qualifications of the applicants. They said, among other things, that applicants lacked suitable education.

In an article based on a similar report from 2021, we show, in addition, that a clearly smaller number of employers (74 %) put any blame on job-related factors. Such factors include, for example, salary, the location of the job, and working hours. 

Then, employers in the healthcare sector most often recognized job-related factors as a cause for recruitment problems. 

Such factors have been at the heart of the labor market disputes we’ve seen in Finland this spring, especially in the municipal sector. (NOTE: The link here takes you to a webpage called “Trade Union News from Finland”. The site is run by Heikki Jokinen, a freelance journalist). 

It is, however, very difficult to find actual studies that look at the labor market mismatch from the point of view of job applicants. 

Recently, though, SAK – the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions – published a study that looked at exactly this. The Finnish name of the study translates to “How could you find a good employer?”. This study gives another angle from which to discuss the Finnish labor shortage. 

Employees’ views on the Finnish labor shortage

This study is based on thematic interviews of 13 job seekers and 5 employment professionals. In the following, we will concentrate on the job seekers and their opinions and experiences. We will, however, return to those of the professionals at the end. 

The purpose of this study was to understand and explain the mismatch from the point of view of job seekers. Based on the interviews, the researchers defined the qualities of good employers and good recruitment practices.

The interviewed job seekers represented different professions, industries and geographic locations. They also differed in their demographic characteristics. They all were, however, experienced job seekers. 

Certain groups of job seekers face similar challenges

The researchers identified there job seeker groups that share similar challenges in finding employment. These groups were 

  • older job seekers (those over 55), 
  • those who, prior to unemployment, had been employed by the same employer for a long period of time; and 
  • job seekers with a foreign background.

The challenges these groups faced relate to skills recognition, prejudice, and lack of suitable job search skills. 

Job seekers belonging to these groups said employers don’t seem to recognize their qualifications for the job. They might have, for example, acquired their degrees so long ago that those degree titles no longer existed and were thus unknown to recruiters. Job seekers also felt that foreign degrees were not recognized. People in these groups may also find it difficult to provide the needed documentation for their skills. 

Job seekers in these groups also mentioned prejudice as a hindrance to finding a job. 

Job seekers in these groups also questioned whether they had the job search skills that are needed to find a job in the Finnish job market today. 

Superhumans, super employees, and super job seekers

Both the job seekers and the employment professionals highlighted several contradictions visible in the Finnish job market currently. 

One of the contradictions had to do with expectations and reality. Job seekers felt that many times employers are looking for superhumans. This doesn’t leave room for job seekers who might be lacking in one requirement or another but who would be completely capable of learning the ropes if given the chance. This would, however, require proper onboarding at the start and training opportunities further down the road.  

Another contradiction has to do with motivational aspects. The modern job market emphasizes the motivation of employees. A job should be something more than a job. It should be a calling, a way to fulfill oneself, etc. There are, however, plenty of people who work to live, to earn a paycheck. Employers should accept that this doesn’t make someone a bad employee.

Especially the employment professionals pointed out that sometimes the qualities that make someone a super job seeker are not the same qualities that would make them a good employee in that job. Or rather,problems in the job search skills may not say anything about job performance in the actual job. For example, learning difficulties or language barriers that can show up in written job applications might not say anything about the person’s ability to excel in the job. 

Requirements for employers

Sometimes, especially in public discussions, the Finnish labor shortage has been partly blamed on job seekers being picky with jobs and employers.

However, this study revealed that the expectations job seekers place on potential employers are quite reasonable. For example, they expect that the terms of employment are fair and reasonable and that employers follow those terms.

Job seekers also like clear job ads and clear and simple recruitment processes. This includes clearer information about the job itself and also about the employer. Job seekers prefer job ads by the employer. But if the employer uses an external recruitment company, the ad should still clearly indicate who the actual employer is. 

The reputation of the employer plays an important role in negative cases. So, if an employer has a reputation of being unreliable or is suffering from bad management and atmosphere, job seekers avoid them. 

In the end, job seekers are looking for employers who treat them fairly, follow agreed terms, and view them without prejudice. 

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Minna
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