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AFP
June 23, 2021

‘World’s happiest country’ seeks migrants

AFP
June 23, 2021

Helsinki: Repeatedly dubbed the happiest nation on the planet with world-beating living standards, Finland should be deluged by people wanting to relocate, but in fact it faces an acute workforce shortage. "It’s now widely acknowledged that we need a spectacular number of people to come to the country," recruiter Saku Tihverainen from agency Talented Solutions told AFP.

Workers are needed "to help cover the cost of the greying generation", the recruiter explained. While many Western countries are battling weak population growth, few are feeling the effects as sharply as Finland.

With 39.2 over-65s per 100 working-age people, it is second only to Japan in the extent of its ageing population, according to the UN, which forecasts that by 2030 the "old age dependency ratio" will rise to 47.5.

The government has warned that the nation of 5.5 million needs to practically double immigration levels to 20,000-30,000 a year to maintain public services and plug a looming pensions deficit.

Finland might seem like an attractive destination on paper, scoring high in international comparisons for quality of life, freedom and gender equality, with little corruption, crime and pollution.

But anti-immigrant sentiment and a reluctance to employ outsiders are also widespread in Western Europe’s most homogenous society, and the opposition far-right Finns Party regularly draws substantial support during elections.

After years of inertia, businesses and government "are now at the tipping point and are recognising the problem" posed by a greying population, said Charles Mathies, a research fellow at the Academy of Finland. Mathies is one of the experts consulted by the government’s "Talent Boost" programme, now in its fourth year, which aims to make the country more attractive internationally, in part through local recruitment schemes.