Sunday 05.07.2020

Finland is not for unskilled job seekers, says the OECD

In Finland 9 out of 10 open vacancies are for highly qualified labor. The Government works on a new strategy to attract international talent while many migrants denounce alleged discriminatory practices that prevent them from entering the labor market


Image by Gerd Altmann.
Image by Gerd Altmann.

Globalisation, technological progress and demographic changes are having a profound impact on the work markets all over the world. And Finland, with its particularities, does not escape those tendencies, as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explains in its last study.

The report 'Society at a Glance 2019' published by the club of the richest countries analyses the main social indicators in the 36 most developed economies of the world. And as far as the labor market is concerned, it points to a series of "mega-trends" that are affecting "the number and quality of jobs that are available, how they are carried out and the skills that workers will need in the future to succeed in an increasingly competitive landscape".

On average, across the OECD countries analysed by the so-called 'Skills for Jobs database', more than five out of ten jobs which are hard to fill (almost 60%) are found in high skilled occupations.

Those jobs range from managerial positions to highly skilled professionals in the health care, teaching and ICT sectors, explains the study. On the other hand, there is still a relatively large share of occupational shortage (about 39% of total positions which are hard to fill across the OECD) in medium-skilled occupations, such as personal service workers or electrical and electronic trades workers.

Finally, fewer than one out of ten jobs in shortage across the OECD are found in low-skilled occupations. This is an impressive fact, which should make public policy makers and specially workers in the different countries to think about the importance of continuous training and updating of their skills.

Finland leads the trend

However, the intensity of occupational shortages varies significantly across countries. This is why a country-by-country analysis reveals that Finland is leading this trend towards an economy based on a highly trained labor force: "In Finland, more than nine out of ten jobs in shortage are of the high-skilled type", remarks the OECD in its report.

Job shortage high skilled occupations oecd

In Mexico and Chile, for instance, the demand for highly skilled professionals is significantly lower, with less than two out of ten jobs in shortage being 'high skilled' and the majority of jobs in shortage being found, instead, in medium to low-skilled occupations.

The OECD says in the most developed economies the demand for specific types of skills is being "increasingly reshaped". The shortage of high level cognitive skills (reading understanding, processing information and ideas, applying general rules to specific problems...) has increased while the demand for physical abilities (trunk strength, stamina or arm steadiness) has decreased due to automation processes.

Lack of labor for tech and health care

The Finnish authorities are well aware that they have a problem of lack of skilled labor. This shortage is noticeable, above all, in the Information Technology sector, where according to official calculations it will be necessary to fill 90,000 positions in the next 4 years. Also in desperate need of professionals are the health care and service industries.

To deal with this lack of labor, the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of the Interior set up together a cooperation group on 22 March. The aim is to promote the entry and integration of more international students in the Finnish educational system.

According to a press release published in early April, it is a must for those experts "to streamline the process of entering higher education students and to provide better opportunities for graduates to work in Finland".

A whole country bet

The text shows that behind this intention there is a whole country bet. It explains that this is not just about attracting more foreign students, but also about retaining them once their training has ended. Otherwise, the country faces a serious risk of losing competitiveness in front of other international actors. 

In this sense, the Minister of Education, Sanni Grahn-Laasonen emphasized that the country could lose the train of economic growth if it turns its back on the highly skilled foreign workforce: "Finland inevitably needs high-skilled international experts to secure the availability of a skilled workforce. We need to find ways in which Finland can continue to compete for international experts and help those future professionals to find work more fluently than before. Economic growth must not be caught up in the shortage of experts".

It is also a fact that many of the foreigners who already live in the country and who claim to have a high education complain about the lack of opportunities. They say that employers often use the complicated Finnish language as a barrier to not incorporating foreigners into their work forces, even in fields where fluency in Finnish is not essential.

Alleged discriminatory practices

Many of them express everyday in social media their frustration with those alleged discriminatory practices. And they claim that this affects even those who speak Finnish. This is because, according to their complaints, many employers take for granted that they do not understand the language and for this reason they do not even consider they applications.

The governmental authorities, who repeat that Finland needs more high skilled immigrants, know that there is a problem with that. Therefore, the minister of the Interior Kai Mykkänen, said in the press release announcing the creation of the working group to attract foreign labor: "For more international students to stay in Finland after graduation, they need to feel welcome" and "employers must also be encouraged to hire foreign experts".

The need to attract foreign talent is not only due to the desire to compete with other advanced economies. Finland faces a serious problem of aging population, with a birth rate that in 2018 chained its eighth consecutive year of decline. And the third when deaths exceed births. 

The OECD itself indicates in its report 'Society at a glance 2019' that Finland is with Italy, Greece, Portugal and Japan among the countries in the world with the highest percentages of elderly people, over 35%. And the organization warns that "by 2060 the average ratio is projected to double".