Unemployment among immigrant women in Finland – discourses and observations

women at work

One particular article in Helsinki Sanomat unleashed lots of emotions in February 2021 within the community of immigrant women. What had happened? Receivement of parental benefits was pointed out as a reason why immigrant women have such a low rate of employment in Finland. And the solution? Parental benefits should be cancelled.

Thanks to the International Working Women of Finland, we all could follow the story from the beginning. And thanks to their prompt reaction, the discussion on the topic has started. Some other NGOs supported IWWOF’s statement over time with the call for a more complex explanation of such economic data. 

We all naturally felt, there are more reasons for a low rate of employment between immigrant women in Finland. For me, the most obvious reason was that while lots of native Finnish women have a workplace where to return after maternity leave, most foreigners have none.

We had moved to Finland when my youngest child was 5 months old. I started looking for a job in Finland when he was about 2.5 years old. He went to the daycare and I felt enthusiastic about coming back to the labour market and starting to do something I can enjoy besides being a mom and a wife. My son has reached 5 this month and apart from a few months spending in a paid employment, I haven’t yet succeeded in finding a job. 

If I would have known the reality I have been facing, I would have stayed with my son at home for the whole duration of the maternity support, till he reached 3. I would have been focusing on my children and it might have saved me from a lot of disappointment, energy consumptions, losing my professional self-esteem and much more. What I want to say is that it’s a reasonable choice to stay at home with the children. 

Nonetheless, there are many other explanations for the fact that immigrant women are not yet fully involved in the labour market. Nordic Diversify organized a panel discussion with different speakers on this particular topic on the 21st of April 2021. The discussion was recorded and is available for everyone who is interested to watch it. I enjoyed it very much and there were a lot of valuable points mentioned either by panellists or in the chat discussion. I will summarise thoughts I found interesting without commenting on them. But you are free to discuss this topic further in the comment section under this blog. Or even better, you can write down your own article and send it to me for publishing 🙂

  • Lack of network
  • Lack of self-confidence: comparing yourself with the locals, who have language skills and network built up during their lifetime
  • Lack of work experience either in general or particularly from Finland with no reference
  • Finnish companies are not truly ready to employ immigrants and they require the native level of Finnish language skills
  • Instead of asking WHO is not working, we should be asking WHY he/she doesn’t work
  • It’s important to combine qualitative and quantitative approach in research for a better understanding of the social phenomenons
  • A job seeker is for the Unemployment office one universal person and there is offered one universal integration process for everyone
  • People with skills, education and working experience want to work and not to learn Finnish forever

2 Comments

  1. It is really nice that this topic is now ´being discussed. When I read this article from HS for the first time, I was so disappointed in a way how it represents immigrant women to the locals. Instead of pointing out the problems the Finnish society faces, it was such a generalized article. No wonder that it caused a massive public response.

    1. I remember that I was speechless about the fact, how they interpreted the data without showing the broader context. I would say they have learnt their lesson and I am really happy, that the community of immigrant women is so active and can raise their voice.

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