Finland is an interesting country situated in the north of Europe. It is famous as the home of Santa Claus, as well as the country that invented the sauna and Nokia. Finland usually ranks among the happiest countries in the world. We talked to a Finnish man to find out what it is really like to live and work in Finland.
Please introduce yourself briefly
My name is Heikki Ekman, I’m 29 years old, I’m from Finland and studying political science at the moment. I have been working in many different jobs from cleaning to English teaching.
How long it usually takes to find a job in Finland?
It depends on many factors. The unemployment rate is pretty high in the EU countries (maybe some countries as the Czech Republic as exceptions), so is the case in Finland. It’s more challenging to find a job than, say, a decade ago. It also affects if you have language skill(s) and what you are looking for. It’s also good to take into account that once you get a job, it’s not necessarily what you were looking for. It often happens that the educated find themselves working as cleaners or as cashiers as the competition is high in the labor markets. “Flexibility is the key”, as some might say and your personal contacts and links often determine your career path as well.
What are the most common channels to search for jobs in Finland: job boards (please specify the biggest ones), Linkedin, newspapers, others?
All the above-mentioned plus the job-seekers can register with the Employment and Economic Development Office, you can find vacancies here: http://www.te-palvelut.fi/te/en/ . In the future the vacancies will be found here too: http://tyomarkkinatori.fi/fi/ where a seeker will create his/her own CV-profile that should facilitate job search, some consider it kind of a “Tinder of labor markets” (more info here). Helsingin Sanomat (the largest subscription newspaper in Finland and the Nordic countries) publishes various job offers. Many job seekers use “monster.com” (https://www.monster.com/) too.
In your opinion, is it easy for an expat to find a job in Finland? Is it possible to find a job remotely or the person has to be in Finland?
The remote labor market is still in its infancy though there is some development spirit in the air. According to my experience, remote jobs can be some translation gig jobs, freelance way (translating some internet sites from Finnish to English or vice versa), for instance.
It is still preferable to be located in Finland when seeking a job. Finding a job is quite challenging for a Finnish person, let alone for an expat. There is some cautious optimism considering the economic growth though.
Is it needed to know Finish to be able to find a job in Finland?
Finnish language skill is very important in many jobs.
What are the most demanded specialists right now in Finland?
Healthcare sector is said to be a career that guarantees an employment. People are always needed in the healthcare sector, even more in the future as the percentage of elderly people is increasing while birth rates remain low. Those with the Diploma in Engineering or lawyers and architects, for example, can pretty sure expect to be hired.
Is it easy for an expat to land any job he or she applies for, including management positions, or there are positions that are “reserved” only for Finnish people?
“Finnishness” is a benefit, naturally, and it is easiest to find a job as a Finnish person. But I would still say that there are also jobs that are reserved for a white European person. If you happen to be a man, even better. There’s been a lot of improvement regarding gender roles but there is still so much job to do in that field. Male managers are still more appreciated.
When it comes to lower paid jobs, such as cleaning, it’s common to see workers of refugee or asylum seeker background, as well as bus drivers for example. Some are also talking about dual labor market as there are many cases when the workers, who as foreigners don’t often know their rights, are paid less than it’s legal (some Estonian construction workers, for instance). In many cases, it’s difficult to find a job if your name has Islamic background.
What is considered to be a good salary for Finland that would allow a single person to have a comfortable living? What about a family with 2 kids?
It’s expensive to live in Finland. When living alone in Finland, 1500-1600 is considered to be a good salary whereas a family with 2 kids needs around 4000 euros monthly to live a decent life. A footnote: it’s often cheaper to live outside the capital areas through public services might not be available that much.
In case of an unemployment, do you receive any help from the Government?
Yes. In case of unemployment, you should register as an unemployed job-seeker and you are entitled to basic unemployment allowance and if your unemployment continues, you’ll receive labor market subsidy (more info here).
In your opinion, where in Finland are the best places to live and work and why?
Living in bigger and smaller cities (or towns) have their pros and cons. It’s easier to find a job when living in big cities and all kinds of services are close. As a con, rents, and prices of a house are very expensive (in the capital area especially) and the queues are often huge. When living outside bigger cities, living is way cheaper but unemployment rates are high and public services are not that adequate.
As a young single person (or a couple) looking for a job, you might want to live in a big city where jobs are and where “life” is. A family with 2 children might want some more peaceful life outside the cities as well as the elderly people.
However, if you are old (whether living alone or with your spouse) it’s such a dilemma as the elderly often prefer to live in the countryside but once they need healthcare, the services might not be available as much as needed.
Would you relocate to another country and why?
I would consider my options better in some another country as employment situation is pretty challenging. Companies are not that willing to take risks to hire a new workforce. Government is also giving less and less money for the education which I consider a big mistake. Cutting from future is never a wise decision. Many educated people are moving away, though we should not talk about “brain drain” yet.
What do you like most about Finland?
Finland is a peaceful country with no huge differences between classes. There are no huge gaps between neighborhoods and one can walk quite freely at a nighttime too. You can receive a proper education until the academic level, no matter what social background do your parents have. Children of low and high incomes families go to the same school. The majority of the education is public, there is only a small number of private schools in Finland. Nature is beautiful. Sauna with a lake view is something worth seeing. Ice swimming in the winter time, I recommend it, though it might sound crazy at first! It’s healthy and refreshing. It’s also a country of many crazy competitions.
What is that you don’t like about Finland?
Despite the fact we are living in relatively equal society, many things are changing. Poverty is increasing (relative poverty) and more people need to select between the food and medicines. Due to political decisions welfare system is gradually worsening. Changes might not be that visual for “outsiders” yet. Many things have changed in a decade, and even more in 2 decades. More “changes” are expected. We don’t have ghettoes (yet) but the gap between different neighborhoods is widening and some neighborhoods suffer from social problems. As the refugee crisis has been on, many want to put the blame on refugees and racism is growing, becoming a new normal actually.
Follow Heikki’s blog for thoughts on the political situation in Finland