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Skilled personnel seek inspiration and tolerance in Finland

What is it that attracts foreign experts to Finland and then keeps them here?


Press release 14 May 2004 What is it that attracts foreign experts to Finland and then keeps them here? What are the factors that discourage them? Does Finland have sufficient attractions and immigration channels to steer skilled foreign personnel to the country? Do organisations, cities, towns and local authorities know how to make the best of international migration? The answers to these questions, so important for Finland’s future, are sought in Sitra’s latest publication, released on May 14, 2004. The principal authors of the book Sykettä ja suvaitsevaisuutta – Globaalin osaamisen kansalliset rajat (Inspiration and Tolerance – The National Limits of Global Know-How)(Edita) are Prof. Annika Forsander, Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki, and Mika Raunio, researcher, Research Unit for Urban and Regional development Studies, University of Tampere. The book deals with the impact of globalisation on the economy and labour market both in Finland and the world at large. It also examines national and international regulation of the global movement of labour. Forsander believes that immigration policy can be made more effective so that experts feel welcome in Finland, and that unnecessary impediments should not be put in the way of the global mobility of labour markets. This applies to policies at both the national level and the local level, as reflected in the issue of work and residence permits, for example. “Finland has supported the setting up of global labour markets by means of different national competitive strategies. Why is Finland’s immigration policy not formulated in such a way as to support competitive strategies that would expressly contribute to furthering the country’s economic policies?” asks Forsander. In trying to attract experts a distinction has to be made between factors that first attract them and those that then persuade them to stay in Finland. The achievements of the Finnish welfare society, for example, such as a high level of the country’s infrastructure, the information society, security and social calm, are not enough to lure skilled foreign workers to Finland. On the other hand, they are factors that can induce them to stay once they are here. Conversely, the other side of Finnish welfare, may well prevent foreign experts from migrating to Finland or result in their leaving after a time here. Finland is a country of relatively cheap labour compared with other markets for highly qualified experts. Low salaries combined with high taxation and a high cost of living mean that for many skilled employees their usable income and standard of living have in fact dropped when they moved to Finland. What is most important when foreign experts move to Finland is that they can find interesting work, make the best use of their skills and develop their careers in their own field by being given challenging tasks. Where the organisation that employs them is located is not so important. At present it is mostly just individual companies with an international reputation or research institutions whose renown is built on the star scholars who work in them that have successfully attracted skilled foreign workers to Finland. An inspiring work environment plays a key role in binding skilled foreign personnel to Finland. Factors that encourage them to stay on in the country are a work culture that has a high regard for flexibility, independence, a low hierarchical structure and family life. Furthermore, the pace of Finnish life is less stressful and competitive than in many other countries. A negative aspect of Finnish work is the lack of multicultural and social intercourse. A multicultural residential environment encourages experts to assimilate in a certain area. The cultural diversity found in a tolerant environment is one of the characteristics of innovative and attractive urban areas. Immigrant organisations spread information about the area and this attracts other experts in the global economy to migrate to Finland. Seen from a local government perspective a carefully considered immigration policy can promote the production of innovations in an area. Information about interesting career opportunities and attractive urban environments is spread among experts through their global grapevine. Information that exerts a negative effect on Finland’s attractiveness, such as intolerant treatment of foreigners, also spreads rapidly. The Syke ja suvaitsevaisuus book is based on the results of Sitra’s research programme charting the production of innovations and the international movement of skilled labour. The programme started as the result of cooperation in the multidisciplinary research community and is among the first of its kind at the international level. One hundred and fifty foreign experts were interviewed during the study and asked to give their reasons for moving to Finland and factors that have contributed to, or worked against, their feeling at home here. The study concentrated on the information and communications technology and biotechnological fields. Further details: Annika Forsander, Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki, tel. +358-9-1912 8459 or +358-50-533 90338 Mika Raunio, Research Unit for Urban and Regional Development Studies (SENTE), University of Tampere, tel. +358-3-215 8855 or +358-50-327 6364 Pia Mero, Sitra, tel. +358-9-6189 9417 Details of publication: Sykettä ja suvaitsevaisuutta – Globaalin osaamisen kansalliset rajat (The National Limits of Global Know-How). Annika Forsander, Mika Raunio, Perttu Salmenhaara, Mika Helander. Sitra 262. ISBN 951-37-4174-5, ISSN 0785-8388. Edita Publishing Oy. Helsinki 2004. Price €29. Sales: Edita Customer Services and bookshops.