Finland: The Fight For Immigration

Finland’s top industry chiefs have reacted with dismay at new and far-reaching anti-immigration policies emanating from Prime Minister Antti Petteri Orpo’s newly installed conservative-right government.

Business leaders fear the restrictive labor policies will significantly curtail technology companies’ recruitment of foreign talent. IT-sector bosses worry that the proposed limits threaten to curb economic growth and damage Finland’s global reputation as an open and progressive Nordic nation within the EU.

When Orpo formed his government in June 2023, it included the anti-EU and immigration ultraright-wing Finns Party. The results have been a seismic shift to tighten labor policies and immigration laws while raising a general negative attitude toward employing foreign workers.

The government plans to add proficiency tests in the Finnish language to work-visa qualification requirements. Rather than “import” talent, the government is also exploring domestic solutions favoring increased state investment to deliver domestic IT talent. 

“It’s unfortunate that issues around the government’s immigration policies are harming Finland’s global image, which has traditionally been positive to hiring foreign talent to grow the international potential of our companies and the economy itself. The damaging publicity from these controversies is both negative and difficult to repair,” says Jaakko Hirvola, the chief executive of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries (FFTI).

The Orpo government claims that its new immigration policies will be mainly directed at limiting access by unskilled workers to Finland’s labor market. However, the FFTI and other business organizations say the planned curbs will universally impact the ability of companies to recruit skilled and unskilled workers. 

“The need for skilled foreign labor is high in Finland. More than 40% of companies find recruiting the skills they need challenging,” says Hirvola. “We must develop this country’s image in a way that doesn’t impede the inflow of foreign labor.” Riikka Pakarinen, the head of the technology-focused Finnish Startup Community (FSC), fears that the government’s “xenophobia tinted” labor policies could undo decades of hard work by previous Finnish governments. “They are silently endorsing racism within new immigration policies and openly exhibiting hostility toward foreigners,” says Pakarinen. “This is an absolutely inexplicable and untenable situation that is simply embarrassing and leaves me at a loss for words.”