Monday, July 22, 2013

Why scare off immigrants when Finland needs immigrants' labor input?

Immigrants are disrespected, abused and labelled as "welfare leaches" and rapists by anti-immigration proponents and far-right xenophobes, many of whom seem to be unaware of the fact that Finland is in need of immigrants to help sustain its social and health sector.

Speaking on 15 July 2013 in Seinäjoki, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Paul Risikko, said Finland's social and health sector needs immigrants' labor input. Almost 17 000 workers in the sector will retire yearly by 2020 and it is estimated that there will be 225 000 job openings in the sector by 2025. According to the Minister, Finland's young age group is not enough to fill the labor shortages and the country needs skilled labor from abroad.

Besides the fact that many immigrants are in Finland for the long haul, if not permanently, it's high time anti-immigration activists in the country, including convicted MPs like James Hirvisaari and Jussi Halla-ajo come to terms with the fact that Finland needs immigrants, especially in its social and health sector.

In my view, expressions of anti-immigration sentiments scare off some immigrants, including graduates in the field of nursing and other social services, and go a long way to hurt Finland's social and health sector which according to Minister Risikko is in need of immigrants' input.

As of the time of this writing, foreign students in the field of nursing and other social services study in Finland's top universities free of charge. Common sense suggests that the country should harness the skill it imparts students in a bid to arrest looming labor shortages in the social and health sector. This can be done by promoting equal opportunities and employing graduates without discrimination of any kind.

I'm aware of the fact that many skilled foreign nationals, including nursing graduates of African origin for example don't feel welcomed in Finland. Some feel discriminated in and out of work and Finnish language barrier is a major career road block to others. Anti-immigration elements might be glad to learn that many would like to leave the country and pursue a career elsewhere while labor shortage looms in Finland.

It doesn't make sense, in my opinion, to train foreign students as nurses and social workers - free of charge - and then scare them off in the face of an aging population and impending labor shortages.

Finland's anti-immigration proponents, many of whom are bolder and more vocal with the advent of the internet, social media and anti-immigrant chat rooms, are hurting the country - especially its social and health sector - by bashing and scaring off people whose input is needed to sustain much-needed health and social services.

*Image: Yle

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