The Importance of Sustainable Approaches to Work-Based Migration and Integration

The Sustainable Development Goal, SDG, 10 addresses reducing inequalities within and between countries. It also addresses inequalities related to representation and migration. One way to reduce inequalities that result from migration is to ensure that the integration processes and employment possibilities picture the resulting diversity of the workforce. Check out the discussion from a panel about the future of work-based migration in Finland, and the challenges, for the International Working Women of Finland (IWWOF) ry.

In 2020, Finland published its second Voluntary National Review on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In the report it is emphasized that “Finland’s 2018 migration policy guidelines especially promote labor migration, integration to support this, and good relations between people from different groups.” It is also stated that “Finland has supported a rules-based and responsible migration policy and developed its preparedness for a mass influx of migrants, and it is also systematically improving the quality of the asylum process and legal safeguards for asylum seekers”. In the report it is also mentioned that “Voter turnout among the highly educated is higher than among those with a basic level of education, and immigration background reduces the likelihood of political participation.” This is why I am pleased to introduce the second writer of this blog, Theresia Bilola, who is a candidate for the Green party in Turku for the municipal elections in 2021.

Theresia Bilola. Picture: Suvi Elo.

Theresia moved to Finland in 2005 for family reunification and then studying. Theresia studied for a master’s degree in Administrative Sciences in the European Masters in Higher Education at the University of Tampere. She obtained a PhD from the University of Turku’s Graduate School on Comparative Research on Higher Education and Science Institutions funded by the Academy of Finland. Her research focused on strategy formulation and implementation. Post PhD, Theresia has been an independent consultant on higher education and development policy. She has experience in institutionalizing the SDGs, local climate, and circular economy policy coordination and implementation. She is an international talent with 15 years of study, work, family, and living experience in Finland. She is a founding and active member of the IWWOF Turku branch.

The topics of international talent recruitment, work-based migration, and employment of international talents in Finland have been making the rounds on different online and offline forums. It has been noticed that some of the target groups (international talents, SMEs, startups, and micro employers) have not been sufficiently present in the discussions. For instance see some articles that dominated this discussion in February are summarized in this blog post by Mastering Finland.

On March 3rd, Theresia hosted a panel discussion about the future of work-based migration in Finland, challenges, and solutions as part of the IWWOF ry’s Empower Wednesday project. In the panel participated Kirsi Korhonen from the International Fox Agency; Priyanka Banerjee from Business Wiz Ltd and the IWWOF board; and Katariina Komulainen from Moirai Consult. Natalia Mufutau moderated the panel. She is the Sales Director at MAW Siivouspalvelut Ltd. Tove’s task was to act as secretary. The event was live streamed by De Betong Media TV and can be watched here.

Flyer for the panel discussion about the future of work-based migration in Finland, challenges, and solutions.

This panel discussion aimed to bring an additional and important voice to these narratives to ensure the potential for more inclusive, successful policies, projects, and services built on long-term, sustainable, deliberate, and systemic thinking and not one-off solutions. Given that these are broad topics touching different stakeholders, not everything could be addressed in a two-hour panel, but it was a start which will continue with a series of other events with different focus points and panelists.

The panel was quite eye-opening for me as a native Finn.

I, Tove, think that the best part was realizing how many smart, practical efforts are done for work-based migration. For example, when recruiting international talents, it is crucial to take care of the family, making sure that the entire family is managing well. Issues regarding this are included in a guidebook for employers. This guidebook is a result of the feedback from companies and includes challenges that have been suggested for publication as a guidebook. The guidebook will be published this spring on one of the ELY websites and will be available to employers.

The largest challenge that was highlighted is that by 2040 the Finnish workforce will decline by 111 000, which means that more people are needed to fill the gap. It is statistically impossible to fix this balance with the unemployed currently living in Finland. There are gaps in some business areas, for example in some businesses there are junior talents available, but seniors are needed; or the other way around, meaning every able working person is needed. It is just the suitable match that ought to be made.

Theresia thinks that the most interesting points and solutions that came up in the panel discussion were:
– Viewing the ‘search for skilled talents’ from a systemic and futuristic perspective.
– Forecasting of needed skills as part of orientation for study choices.
– The need to support the micro or SME sector, which is the biggest employer but has the least amount of experience in employing international talents.
– The possibility for work as a form of integration and learning Finnish/Swedish. People can learn the language faster at work and vocabulary directly related to their skills and competencies.
– International talents cannot be put in one box – there are different education and background factors, different reasons for migration, and different life situations. A solution Theresia proposes is to have targeted services. This would solve the problem of mismatching skills and underemployment. One such is the newly started competence center for highly educated immigrants in Espoo. More information here.

The panel highlighted several practical solutions which will be useful if they reach the suited audience. In the future, more value will be added if international talents, more representatives from SMEs, and policymakers as they have been identified in the discussion as very vital stakeholders. The agenda will be enhanced in the future by including more of these. In the Voluntary Local Review 2020, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the City of Turku, it is stated that the immigrants’ Osaamispiste offers support for the first steps into working life as well as help with integration in the workplace or alongside work. It provides services that promote the employment of immigrants, such as study guidance and activities that support studies and study skills. This could be one of the stakeholders that will be useful in future panels as they can directly listen to the other stakeholders and are in the position to address some of the issues raised and also use some of the solutions that were identified.

The panel discussion was the second event of the IWWOF ry’s Empower Wednesday project on March 3rd, 2021.  

As conclusions from the panel discussions are the following highlights:
– A job is an experience; it is important to get a job for getting experience. It should also be something you want to do. In that case, you easily develop because you are genuinely motivated.
– Collaboration and partnership are the keys to the challenges as no one stakeholder can have an all-encompassing solution! We would like all of us to belong because of the differences of our values for society.
– To companies: the future is here, it is diverse, and we will help you get there. Talk to your colleagues and ask someone who has already tried employing international talents. We all want to succeed. It does not matter if you are big or small, the world has changed and continues to change. It is a diverse world. Finland should think long-term especially with regards to how the workforce is changing.

This conversation does not need to end here. Reach out to us if you have suggestions for another such discussion.

Tove Holm and Theresia Bilola, March 16th, 2021


City of Turku. Central Administration – Project Development Unit, 2020. Authors: Björn Grönholm, Anna Bertoft, Jutta Mäkinen, Anna Lilja, Kristiina Paju. A Voluntary Local Review 2020. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the City of Turku.

Finnish Prime Minister’s Office, 2020. The Voluntary National Review 2020 Finland. Report on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  

Published by toveholmconsulting

Founder of Tove Holm Consulting. I am a transdisciplinar facilitator for sustainable development. Passions: change leadership, education, Agenda2030, networking & the Baltic Sea. I am a public speaker & PhD.

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