On the employment of asylum seekers

Let’s get straight to the point: I found an article on the Helsinki website describing the employment of people with a foreign background, and the site offers a very comprehensive package about the subject. However, the whole thing talks about immigrants in their entirety, so I’ll put snippets here of what was said about asylum seekers: 

  • Seeking employment is often most difficult when coming from countries with large numbers of asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Those who have lived in Finland for a longer period of time are better employed. The positive development is also reflected in increased earned income and an increase in owner-occupied housing. 
  • The unemployment rate of Somalis, Iraqis and Afghans is clearly higher and the employment rate is lower than that of the native population. These countries have often come to Finland as refugees, through the asylum application process or as a result of family reunification. These background groups also highlight the low employment rate of women, especially in the first years of living in Finland. Many of Helsinki’s immigrants, especially those with a Turkish background, work as entrepreneurs.  

Asylum seekers’ worries about earning their own livelihood subside with the length of their stay in the country

This article describes a study in which highly educated Iraqis who came to Finland as asylum seekers were interviewed. The main result was that the respondents’ attitudes towards social benefits changed from very negative to clearly more positive during the study period. The change was accelerated especially by the fact that it was almost impossible to find a job in Finland. Many felt that finding a job corresponding to their own skills has proved to be very difficult, and the difficulties do not only affect less educated newcomers. 

Although at the time of the first interviews, it seems that the participants were still strained by everything they had experienced before coming to Finland. Even aside this, they wanted to start working quickly – to get their minds off things.

Let us remember that it takes at least three months to obtain a work permit if a passport is included, or six months without one.

Interviewees said that taking the financial assistance the reception centres provided caused them to have conflicted feelings. On the other hand, they were very grateful for the help they received, but living on reception money felt humiliating and was felt to be necessary only in the event that an individual is unable to work due to mental or physical problems. They felt consolation in the idea that the situation was only temporary: assistance received from society could be repaid in taxes immediately after obtaining a work permit. 

However, reading further it seems that unemployment and the related need for social benefits continued to cause very strong feelings of worthlessness and frustration for the interviewees. This was partly due to the fact that the possibility to pay taxes on one’s income was seen as a major milestone in the integration process. Through it, the individual could perceive themselves as respected members of society.

Due to the poor employment situation, this was not possible for most. 

The reason for the change in attitudes for many was that they found employment in Finland completely impossible. At the time of the last round of interviews, after almost three years in the country, the employment situation of the participants was very similar to a year earlier: only one of the interviewees was satisfied with their own work situation after starting their own business. Two of the interviewees were underemployed, three were unemployed and one had been excluded from labour. This is all taken from the article and freely translated.

Our social assistance system does not necessarily motivate people to look for work and some immigrants adapt too well to just receiving social benefits and accept that it is possible to cope in Finland without working  – but I would argue that this is the Finnish way. Indeed, not all just sit in their homes and watch TV all day while taxpayers for them, but it is a sad fact that social benefits can kill any work motivation. Sometimes it is more economically viable to be completely unemployed than to receive low-paid work, as even relatively small changes in income affect the benefits received. This would need to change in order for raising employment.

The low employment rate of women

Last month, Helsingin Uutiset (Helsinki News) reported how the Refugee Employment Survey shows why a large proportion of asylum seekers are young men

According to a recent study by THL and Kela, men who have arrived through family reunification are employed in Finland faster than other refugee groups. Women who come through family reunification, on the other hand, find employment more slowly than others. In addition, the employment gap for men narrows as the length of stay increases, while for women it increases. The differences are explained by the fact that different people enter the country through different migration routes in different life situations, says THL’s press release. 

The author of the story, Jussi Vehkasalo, describes there are differences in the employment of refugees who have arrived in Finland, depending on whether they have arrived in the country as asylum seekers, refugees or through family reunification. Instead, those who have received a residence permit through family reunification have arrived in Finland on the basis of their family ties. The employment of men who have arrived through family reunification can be facilitated by the fact that family members who have arrived in the past may have already acquired the skills relevant to employment and formed social networks. 

Women who have arrived through family reunification are more likely than other groups to take family leave right from the beginning of their stay in the country, which delays their employment. However, it appears from the study that family leave right from the beginning of the period of stay can also have long-term effects on women’s employment. Would we be able to focus more on mothers caring for children at home.

We have to remember that integration is a wide-ranging phenomenon that includes, for example, language learning and cultural acquisition, identification with the local community and society, and the formation of a social network that spans different population groups. Employment is generally considered to be the most important aspect of structural integration. In addition, integration monitoring often also looks at, for example, success in education systems, housing conditions and political participation.

These measures were listed in the article to increase female unemployment

  • Moving integration training from the school bench to more jobs. Language learning would take place there alongside work. Despite the positive results, they have remained only experiments. 
  • The transition to studies should be faster, especially for language studies. In apprenticeship training, study should be increased. 
  • A change in employers ’attitudes so that they see the potential of immigrants and want to hire them. Wage subsidies could be tempted to employ the experiment for a longer period of time. 

The same article states that the number of women who have moved to Finland is very heterogeneous, so no one-size-fits-all means will help employment. Women with higher education have, of course, better employment opportunities than other women, but in practice many people are only offered work that does not correspond to education. This does not encourage a return to the labour market. 

Life as a housewife can also be seen as more valuable for cultural reasons than working outside the home. Here, we have to remember that a woman’s worth isn’t tied to their ability to give birth or their employment rate – women can be happy with their ‘stay at home’ lifestyle and not miss work. 

How do I hire an asylum seeker? 

I know, this is the one you have been waiting for, as we are all so highly educated when it comes to entrepreneurship and we’re all rich and just in need of workers in our so nonexistent companies. But here me out:

The employment of immigrants is still important, even if in an exceptional situation caused by COVID-19. It was relatively difficult to find information on how it has affected the employment of asylum seekers. Anna Hyytiäinen, whom we interviewed, said that many have lost their jobs because many of them work as cleaners – which is surprising to such an ordinary citizen such as myself, because I feel that more should be and was invested in cleaning during this epidemic

Due to the situation, we are now living in a difficult emergency. Despite it – or precisely because of it – efforts must be made to ensure that no one is placed in an unreasonable situation. Cooperation, a spirit of support and optimism are needed. 

The following information was gathered here

Have you found a qualified author, but they are an asylum seeker in Finland? 

Did you know that an asylum seeker has the right to work 3 or 6 months after they applied for asylum? The asylum seekers’ right to work is based on the Aliens Act (301/2004, §79) and does not need to be applied for separately. 

How do I make sure that they have the right to work? 

The employer has an obligation to ensure that the foreign worker has the required residence permit/does not need a residence permit. 

Why would I hire an asylum seeker?

Many asylum seekers have a strong desire to work and are motivated and qualified workers. Work is a good way to integrate and learn a language. Despite great motivation, it is difficult for an asylum seeker to get a job in the Finnish labour market due to both structures and attitudes. By hiring an asylum seeker, you offer them valuable work experience and the opportunity to support themselves. Work is one of the best ways to integrate. 

How do I pay an asylum seeker?

Unfortunately, most asylum seekers do not have the opportunity to open a bank account in Finland, but there are still several ways to pay their salaries. The salary can be paid to a prepaid card (eg Monikortti www.moni.fi). An asylum seeker can find out about the possibility of paying a salary to the account of the Red Cross, for example. It is advisable to take a receipt signed by the employee to verify the payment of the salary. 

Where does the asylum seeker pay taxes?

An asylum seeker working in Finland pays taxes to Finland. An asylum code is created for the asylum seeker to pay taxes. 

How long is their right to work valid? 

The asylum seeker’s right to work is valid until the decision given on the asylum application is final. If the decision is positive, the residence permit almost always includes the right to work. If the decision is negative, the asylum seeker’s right to work continues during the processing of any complaint. Thus, the right to work does not end immediately after the decision is received, regardless of whether the decision is positive or negative. If your employee has received a negative decision on their application for asylum, they may want to apply for a residence permit on the basis of work. A residence permit based on work is always applied for together with the employer.

As they have the right to work without a residence permit, here are the terms for that freely translated

You must reside in Finland legally. You can stay legally without a residence permit if:

  • you have a valid visa (you come from a country whose citizens are required to have a visa to Finland) 
  • you have a Schengen residence permit issued by another country, which enables short-term legal residence in Finland 
  • you are a citizen of a visa-free country, which allows you to work during the visa-free period. 

You do not need an employee’s residence permit or any other residence permit if:

  • you work by invitation or contract and the work lasts for a maximum of 90 days 

And you are: 

  • an interpreter, teacher, expert or a sports judge 
  • a professional artist, coach or athlete or a member of their support or maintenance staff 

You can read even more about this topic on the page linked above. To me, it sounds harsh – if you do have a degree outside of those listed, tough luck. It would be much easier if asylum seekers could also apply for a residence permit on the basis of work, regardless of their degree.

For further reading, please check this, though unfortunately it is in Finnish. I could not find a version in English.

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