Sunday 9/27/20
MINORITIES

Minister Henriksson says Finnish Swedes suffer prejudice, harassment

Relations between both Finnish and Swedish communities have deteriorated. Swedish-speakers are also dissatisfied with the language service of public administration, such as the emergency center, police, post office and VR.
Minister of Justice Anna Maja Henriksson. Photo: Laura Kotila/Vnk.
Minister of Justice Anna Maja Henriksson. Photo: Laura Kotila/Vnk.

They usually live in the most beautiful coastal areas or in the best neighborhoods of the capital city. They tend to be richer, they control businesses and their life expectancy is longer than the average for Finns, according to Statistics Finland's figures.

They constitute around 5% of the population but their language is official throughout the country. They enjoy their own schools and universities. And in areas like the Åland archipelago they have a certain degree of autonomy and their own legislation.

And yet, the Finnish Swedes feel discriminated against, as stated in a press release from the Ministry of Justice, which is headed by the leader of the Swedish People's Party Anna-Maja Henriksson.

According to the Ministry's statement, the language climate in bilingual municipalities "seems to have deteriorated in recent years" and relations between both Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking communities have deteriorated slightly.

"The biggest challenge seems to be the availability of Swedish-language services. It is not surprising, but very unfortunate, that Swedish-speakers find it difficult to access services in their mother tongue. It is also worrying that Swedish-speakers continue to experience more prejudice and harassment," said the Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson.

The Language Barometer 2020 survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, has measured how well language law works from the perspective of citizens. In particular, the study looks at how well municipalities and state authorities are able to provide service to their residents in their mother tongue.

Access to services in Swedish decreased

The study shows that almost a quarter of the Swedish-speaking minority in bilingual municipalities feel that their access to services in Swedish has decreased. By contrast, about a third of the Finnish-speaking minority in bilingual municipalities felt that their chances of receiving service in Finnish had clearly improved.

Swedish-speakers also request services less often in Swedish than Finnish-speakers do in Finnish. Swedish-speakers are also dissatisfied with the language service of public administration, such as the emergency center, police, post office and VR. State e-services and library services, however, seem to work well in both languages.

"In addition, Swedes report experiencing prejudice, harassment and discrimination because of their language, but the proportion has decreased since 2016, when the survey was last conducted," the press release says.

The Language Barometer is carried out by Åbo Akademi University. About 6,500 people responded to the May survey.

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