Finland should offer labour-market-oriented integration support to all migrants, strengthen efforts to identify and address early vulnerabilities, and work more closely with employers according to a new OECD report.

Working together – Skills and labour market integration of immigrants and their children finds that, over the last 25 years, Finland has seen one of the fastest growth rates in the migrant population recorded in an OECD country. In parallel, the gap in the labour market outcomes of native- and foreign-born has diverged. And, with limited opportunities for low-skilled employment, labour market integration is increasingly challenging.

Women, in particular, are struggling to integrate; many are locked into inactivity, and face incentives to stay in the home. Early integration support in Finland sends the inactive, including many immigrant women, down a separate track from those who are actively seeking employment. This is unusual among OECD countries and risks increasing the distance between the inactive and the labour force, locking them into inactivity. On top of this, women eligible for the Child Home Care Allowance may find that staying at home is as financially advantageous as engaging in training or paid employment. The OECD recommends that the incentives engendered by these policies be re-examined.

The employment gap between migrant and native women is substantially larger among those with children under 18 than among those without. Even after five years in Finland, migrant women with children see employment rates that trail 47 percentage points behind those of native-born women with children. “Policy needs to do more to support the early integration of immigrant women” said Mari Kiviniemi, Deputy Secretary General of the OECD, presenting the report in Helsinki with Finland’s Minister for Labour, Jari Lindström.