452.5 Temporary labour migrants' experiences of working conditions and social protection in Finland

Friday, August 3, 2012: 10:20 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Distributed Paper
Sanna SAKSELA-BERGHOLM , Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Mika HELANDER , Sociology, Swedish School of Social Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
Rolle ALHO , Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Turku, Helsinki, Finland
Finnish immigration policy was quite restrictive until the 1990s. Nevetheless, immigration policy has been loosened up and since then, and immigration to Finland has been on the increase during the last two decades. Furthermore, temporary labour migration has accumulated lately. In this new situation different institutional stakeholders have expressed diverse standpoints. For employers –both on the national and the transnational level –  the opening up national labour markets has entailed new possibilities of making profit. Some trade unions have raised concern of social dumping of working conditions by the use of migrant workers –especially by migrants staying only short periods in Finland. The role of the state is more ambivalent than that of employers/trade unions. A best case scenario is a “triple win situation” in which the host country, the sending country, and the temporary labour migrant benefits from the process.  

In this paper the focus is on the temporary migrants’ experience of working in Finland. The results show that temporary migrants face particular problems regarding working conditions and access to social protection.  Information of recruitment, working rights, the Finnish taxation system, and of the Finnish social security rarely reaches the labour migrants.  This is partly due to migrants’ lack of Finland-specific knowledge but also due to their weak bargaining position in relation to the employer. However, working in Finland is a way of raising living standards for migrants coming from countries with lower wages such as Russia or Estonia.

Our data consists of 50 semi-structured interviews conducted among cleaners, bus drivers, and seasonal agricultural workers. We have also conducted virtual ethnography by analysing Internet-forums where migrants discuss work related issues. Additional data comprises of background interviews among different societal actors and court decisions of cases where temporary migrants' rights have been undermined.