We are kicking off our month-long series on job-seeking among foreigners in Finland with a coversation with Iiris Ranta, who recently graduated from the University of Jyväskylä with a master’s degree in intercultural management. While completing her thesis on international talent recruitment and retention in the city of Jyväskylä, Iiris focused on the topics of labour migration and the internationalization of higher education.
The results of her thesis support the idea that in order to create successful ecosystems and services for international job seekers, public governance should turn to the knowledge and experiences of the internal talent which already exists locally.
In addition to her work in the city of Jyväskylä, Iiris also co-hosts a podcast called “KYKY & Co.” In it, she focuses on hot topics related to the Finnish foreign labour market. The goal of her podcast is to promote open dialogue on the topic, and she hopes to do so by sharing the stories and experiences of her guests.
One such hot topic, which you might recall from our coverage last month, centered on an article written about the Home Care Allowance received by stay-at-home moms in Finland (read the blog post here). The article focused on the benefits available to migrant women who stay at home to raise their children. The article suggested that migrant women stay at home because they have this allowance, and would not work if they had the opportunity.
This conclusion was based on the finding that other nordic countries lacking welfare systems have higher rates of employment among migrant women, but did not take into account discrimination in the Finnish labour market or other factors which might keep migrant women living in Finland from working.
The article was criticized for lumping immigrant women into a single group, rather than recognizing diversity within this demographic group. It caused quite a bit of online controversy, and brought Iiris’ research area into the spotlight.
In her opinion, the article overlooked barriers to job seeking faced by immigrant women in Finland.
“There will always be people who misuse the system, but I would still claim that they are the minority,” she said. “I would claim that most Finnish residents, immigrants and otherwise, would work if they are given the chance."
Based on her research, Iiris believes that Finland’s prioritization of networking and Finnish language skills in recruitment prevents many educated foreigners from finding work.
Although she believes that networking and language skills are useful, “[networking] shouldn’t be the end goal of employment,” Iiris said. “I don’t think fluency should be the goal.” She believes that one should be able to find employment based on the skills they have rather than solely on network and language ability.
Another factor preventing the Finnish labour market from taking advantage of the international talent living in the country is the hidden job market, which Iiris estimates may account for over 80%, of available jobs.
Finding work can be especially difficult in smaller cities, Iiris pointed out. These places tend to have companies who still believe that Finnish language skills are the key, and they use it as a central recruitment requirement. In Helsinki and bigger cities generally, she said, it tends to be a bit different.
For example, Helsinki began “blind” job recruitment initiatives to address discrimination in the hiring process.
“This has been really interesting to follow,” Iiris said. “Even [a person’s] name has such a big impact. You might have the same qualifications as a Finnish person, but you never get the chance to go for an interview.”
While conducting her research, Iiris noticed a dissonance between national campaigns for foreign talent recruitment and the lived experiences of immigrants looking for work. On the national level, she explained, Finland runs campaigns looking to attract international, but there are so many educated foreigners already living in the country struggling to find a job.
Give episode 42 a listen to hear more about the inspiration for Iiris’ podcast name and for some motivational tips.