Immigrant women face difficulties finding work in Finland
Problems include poor language skills, low level of education and insufficient work experience.
The employment rate among the foreign-born population aged 20–64 permanently residing in Finland in 2014 was about ten percentage points lower than the figure for those of Finnish origin.
While the employment rate among men of foreign origin was only slightly behind the rate among men of Finnish origin, the figure for foreign-born women fell almost 20 percentage points short of their Finnish-born peers.
‘The difference becomes pronounced, because Finnish women’s employment rate is exceptionally high as it is,’ explains Hanna Sutela, a Senior Researcher at Statistics Finland.
‘In fact, the employment rate among women of foreign origin here in Finland is even higher than – or at least at the same level as – the employment rates of native-born women in many Southern and Eastern European countries.’
According to Sutela, however, there are group-specific differences in access to employment among women of foreign origin.
‘The longer that an immigrant woman has lived in Finland, the better her chances of finding employment.’
Becoming a mother also has a stronger impact on immigrant women’s employment rate when compared with Finnish-born women. Sutela does not believe that this is a result of immigrants being unaware of the Finnish maternity leave system.
‘I don’t know to what extent this is about that. In part, it may also be due to differences between cultures. In some places, mothers are expected to take care of children at home. This may be more pronounced in many other cultures than in Finland or the Nordic countries.’
Low level of education shrinks job opportunities
According to Sutela, the reasons behind immigrants’ poor employment situation often include a low level of education, poor language skills or non-existent work experience.
There are major differences in foreign-born people’s educational structures according to their country of origin.
‘The level of education is particularly low among women with African and Middle Eastern backgrounds. Just over one third of women aged 20–54 originating from these regions – and almost one half of some women coming from Africa – have completed no more than lower secondary education at most. Some have only gone to school for a few years, if that.
‘Immigrant women who stay at home for a long time to take care of their children do not necessarily have any vocational training or work experience. In such cases, it’s also difficult to return to work after a period of family leave.’
Researchers suggest that motherhood weakens the employment rate among women of foreign origin. Immigrants generally have their children at a younger age than native-born Finns.
According to Sutela, having children at a young age may make it more difficult or at least make it take longer for immigrant women to find work.
‘Immigrant women are definitely willing to work. However, their most common problem when seeking employment is their poor Finnish or Swedish language proficiency.’