Finland, which has been repeatedly ranked as the happiest country in the world thanks to its high standard of living, is supposed to be overwhelmed by immigration requests, but in fact it is facing a huge shortage of labor force.
“There is a broad recognition right now that we need a huge number of people,” said Sako Tehverayanen, a recruitment specialist from Talent Solutions agency.
He added that there is a need for labor “to help cover the expenses of the older generation.”
While many Western countries face weak population growth, only a few suffer the consequences to the same extent as Finland.
The age of 39.2 out of every hundred people of working age exceeds 65 years, ranking second after Japan in terms of the proportion of its elderly population, according to United Nations data, which expects the “old-age dependency ratio” to rise to 47.5.
The government has warned that the country of 5.5 million people will have to double immigration levels to between 20,000 and 30,000 a year to maintain public services and a stark pension deficit.
Finland may seem an attractive destination on paper, topping international assessments of quality of life, freedoms and gender equality with low levels of corruption, crime and pollution.
But anti-immigrant sentiment and reluctance to hire foreigners are rife in Europe’s most homogeneous society, while the far-right Fenz party is gaining significant support in the election.
After years of inactivity, business and government are at a “critical and acknowledgment of the problem” caused by society’s aging, according to the Academy of Finland researcher Charles Mathis.
Mathis was among a number of experts consulted for the talent post, now in its fourth year, that aims to make the Scandinavian country more attractive internationally through local employment schemes.
Target groups include health personnel from Spain, metal workers from Slovakia, and IT and marine experts from Russia, India and Southeast Asia. But such efforts have failed in the past.
In 2013, seven of the eight Spanish nurses hired in the town of Vaasa (west) left after only a few months, citing Finland’s high cost of living, cold weather and complex language.
However, there have been a lot of immigrants coming to Finland over the last decade, with the number of arrivals exceeding those leaving in 2019 by about 15,000.
But official statistics indicate that many of the people who leave the country are of higher education levels.
Faced with the largest shortage of skilled workers among OECD countries, some Finnish start-ups have begun setting up joint recruitment sites in an effort to attract talent abroad.