Sunday, November 21, 2004

More foreigners (advice to government, sort of)

The government is talking about how to get more foreigners to move to Finland. This time they are talking about the kind of foreigners that would work.

They are probably thinking that extending the stay requirement for a permanent residence permit from 2 to 4 years in the recently enacted Alien law is actually conductive to this purpose. Or I don't know what they were thinking. The basis for this change was something along the lines of "because many other EU countries have 4 years". So, dear government - do you want to compete with other EU countries for workforce, or don't you?

They did something useful in the new law as well. Now the foreign students who graduate from a Finnish university are allowed to get jobs and a residence permit. Before, the idea was to kick them out of the country after they graduate. Nobody has any idea why. Well, actually back in my time you could get a residence and work permit after graduation, but for that you pretty much had to be already working at that job while studying.

I can see at least two easy ways to increase the work-based immigration. One would be to open the labor market to the citizens of all the civilized world (where "civilized world" is defined as all countries where conditions are not much worse than here and whose citizens are therefore not likely to come here in inconvenient amounts) the same way as it is open to EU citizens. Apart from Nordic and EU countries, Finnish labor market is just as open to people from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Would it be hard, or is it against some EU regulation, to also let in people from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, for example?

Another way (and these don't exclude each other, or the current system) would be to admit people who are considered likely to find jobs. Right now in order to move to Finland for work you need an actual job offer. In some countries, such as Canada and Australia, they also let people in if they believe people can find a job. They have a point system for that: a prospective immigrant gets points for education, points for work experience, points for language skills, etc. People who have enough points are allowed to immigrate without a job offer and look for a job after they come.

One more thing: there is no point in fretting whether Finland as such is an attractive place for immigrants. No matter what you do, it's still bloody cold and people still speak Finnish. If the prospective immigrants happen to want a place where there are palm trees and people speak English, they would still rather go to Florida.

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