The Ministry of Employment and the Economy is mulling over measures to facilitate the entry of asylum seekers into the labour market.


Iraqi refugees at a reception centre in Lahti


“We could shorten the qualifying periods while looking for new means to offer them jobs for which finding workers is difficult,” suggests Olli Sorainen, a ministerial adviser at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.


“This could include light tree clearing or berry picking, snow removal or some property maintenance work.”


An agreement on the matter is not expected before next week when the ministerial working group on migration will hold its next meeting. The meeting was initially scheduled for tomorrow but was postponed because the chairperson of the working group, Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo (NCP), will be in Luxembourg on Friday to sit down with his European counterparts.


Members of Parliament from across party lines have expressed their willingness to re-consider the current practices in the wake of a sharp increase in the number of people arriving in Finland. The arrivals can grow frustrated at the lack of meaningful work to the extent that it can become a security risk.


Asylum seekers are currently allowed to find employment after a three-month qualifying period or after a six-month qualifying period if they have no proper identity documents. “The qualifying period could be shortened to, let’s say, one month and to two or three months for arrivals without identification,” proposes Sorainen.


No such qualifying periods are in place in Sweden, whereas in Germany the qualifying period is three months.


Reducing the qualifying period would necessitate revisions to the Aliens Act, which comes under the ambit of the Ministry of the Interior.


Jorma Vuorio, the head of migration affairs at the Ministry of the Interior, estimated in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat last week that removing the qualifying periods is not a viable option.


The objective of the three-month qualifying period, he reminded, is to encourage asylum seekers to adapt to the society and to ensure they have at least a rudimentary understanding of the rules of employment and the rights of employees in Finland. The qualifying period for applicants without proper identification, in turn, is in place to enable authorities to ascertain their identity.


Sorainen would make private employment agencies responsible for providing employment opportunities to asylum seekers.


“Asylum seekers are not clients of the Employment and Economic Development Offices. The jobs could be provided by private agencies in the capacity of a partner. Increasing such co-operation in the field of employment services is, after all, an objective identified in the government programme,” he points out.


The first asylum seekers could start clearing snow or maintaining properties early next year, if a decision on the matter is taken in the near future.


Helsinki Times