Conspicuous by their absence: Why are there so few foreign workers in Finland?
journal contributionposted on 27.11.2019, 15:03 by David Bartram
Migration scholars commonly assume that employment of low-wage foreign workers is a universal feature of labour markets in wealthy countries. However, several wealthy countries have very few foreign workers (as a percentage of the labour force). Existing theories of international labour migration are not well equipped to explain these anomalies. This paper summarises the challenge presented by ‘negative cases’ of labour migration and explores an explanation for the minimal presence of foreign workers in Finland, where they amount to less than one per cent of the labour force. Most western governments prefer not to allow employers to import low-level workers, but many do not succeed in transforming this preference into actual policy. Finland is able to do so because of an activist economic policy that results in a reduced prevalence of low-level jobs. This policy is supported by a mode of governance that constrains opportunities for employers to play a dominant role in policy-making. Another supporting condition is the presence of a highly organised labour movement.