While many Western countries are struggling with poor population growth, few are feeling the effects as strongly as Finland.

Published: June 22, 2021 12:42 PM |

Last updated: June 22, 2021 12:42 PM

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HELSINKI: Finland is consistently called the happiest nation in the world with a world-class standard of living and should be inundated with people who want to move, but in fact it is facing an acute labor shortage.

“It It is now widely recognized that we need a spectacular number of people to get into the country, “Talented Solutions recruiter Saku Tihverainen told AFP. Workers are needed “to cover the costs of the graying generation,” said the recruiter.

While many western countries are struggling with poor population growth, few are feeling the effects as strongly as Finland.

With 39.2 over 65s per 100 people of working age, it ranks second after Japan in terms of population aging, according to the UN, which predicts that the “age dependency ratio” will rise to 47.5 by 2030 .

The government has warned that the 5.5 million country will have to practically double immigration to 20,000 to 30,000 a year in order to maintain public services and meet an impending pension deficit. Finland may appear on paper like an attractive travel destination that does well in international comparison in terms of quality of life, freedom and gender equality, with little corruption, crime and pollution.

But even in the most homogeneous society in Western Europe there are anti-immigrant sentiments and reluctance to engage outsiders is widespread, and the far-right opposition party, Finns, regularly receives significant support in elections.

After years of inertia, “businesses and governments are now at a turning point and realizing the problem” facing a graying population said Charles Mathies, a research fellow at the Academy of Finland.

Mathies is one of the experts in the government’s fourth-year Talent Boost program, which aims to make the country more attractive internationally, including through local recruitment programs.

One of the goals n Health workers from Spain, metal workers from Slovakia as well as IT and shipping experts from Russia, India and Southeast Asia. But previous such efforts have petered out. In 2013, five of the eight Spanish nurses recruited to the western city of Vaasa left the country after a few months, citing the exorbitant prices, the cold weather and the notoriously complex language.

Finland has nonetheless in has recorded net immigration over the past ten years, with around 15,000 more people arriving than leaving in 2019. But many of those who leave the country are more highly educated, as official statistics show.

In the face of the worst skills shortage in the OECD, some Finnish start-ups are creating a joint careers page to better attract talent from abroad. “As you can imagine, this is a slow burner,” said Shaun Rudden of the Wolt grocery company in an email, adding, “We’re trying to make the moving process as painless as possible.”

Startups ” told me that they can get anyone in the world to come to Helsinki and work for them as long as they are single, “the capital’s mayor Jan Vapaavuori told AFP. But “their spouses are still having great problems getting a decent job.”

Many foreigners complain about widespread reluctance to recognize foreign experience or degrees, as well as prejudice against non-Finnish applicants. Ahmed (who requested a name change for professional reasons) is a 42-year-old Briton with many years of experience developing digital products for multinational, well-known companies.

Yet six months of networking and application in Helsinki, where he is moving for family reasons wanted, were unsuccessful. “One recruiter even refused to shake my hand, it was an amazing moment,” he told AFP.

“There was never a lack of jobs, just a mentality,” said Ahmed, who was in Finland during his search Received offers from large companies in Norway, Qatar, the UK and Germany and eventually started commuting weekly from Helsinki to Düsseldorf.

Recruiter Saku Tihverainen said bottlenecks are pushing more companies to stop their insistence on only employing local Finnish workers employ to loosen up. “Yet many Finnish companies and organizations are very careful to use Finnish, and very fluent in Finnish,” he said.

For Helsinki Mayor Jan Vaaavuori, the four years of having Finland in one UN ranking voted the happiest country in the world, “hasn’t helped as much as we could hope”. “If you stop someone on the street in Paris or London or Rome or New York, I still don’t think most people know about us,” he mused.

Mayor Vapaavuori, whose four-year term ends this summer, is increasingly turning to international PR firms to raise awareness of the city. He is optimistic that Finland can attract talent from Asia in the future and believes that people’s priorities will change as soon as international mobility picks up again after the coronavirus.

Helsinki’s strengths are “safe, functional, reliable, predictable to be – these values ​​have become more important, “he said, adding:” Actually, I think our position after the pandemic is better than it was before. “

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