Finland and the immigration tide

“Finland resists immigration tide,” by Jonathan Power for Khaleej Times:

The further north one travels in Europe the fewer immigrants there are. This, of course, has something to do with the weather and by the time one gets to Finland the proportion of immigrants in the population is only three per cent, far less than France, Germany, Italy or even the United Kingdom. Finland has the added deterrent of having a near impenetrable language.

But Finland is a highly industrialised country. Not just the home of Nokia but of a large number of high-tech companies that do business all over the world. The question is how can Finland manage without large-scale immigration? Every other industrialised country has argued that it needs them. Ever since the 1950s, when post war economic growth got into its stride, immigrants have been recruited to do the menial jobs that natives increasingly would rather be unemployed than do—to clean the streets, empty the dustbins and to work night shifts in industry…

These immigrants have cleared the path to Finland just as a new phenomenon is sweeping through the industrialised countries—the growing number of older people and unchanging retirement ages. People are healthier for longer and living longer and each decade that passes it becomes more so.  Successive Finnish prime ministers have volubly warned the electorate about this but they have not been listened to. The unions are strong even among the professional classes and it is difficult to enact change. Once the present European economic crisis ends, argues Passi Saukkonen of the University of Helsinki, the need for migrants will grow steadily as the number of ageing, already growing faster than the rest of Europe, increases.

To most people’s surprise at the last election Finland saw the meteoric rise of a new right-wing, nationalist political party, “The True Finns”. Before it had won a mere three per cent of the vote. Now it was 20 per cent. Slowing down the rate of entry of immigrants is one of its planks. However, observers stress that only a small proportion of its voters are vociferously anti-immigrant, although this could grow if immigration increases. Presently, its impetus mainly comes from its anti-EU stance…

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