Finnish social security is good: schools and healthcare are free, and the unemployed receive a state benefit for living expenses. The aim is for everyone to have the opportunity to promote social well-being. In the opinion of a man from Afghanistan who has lived in Finland for a long time, some asylum-seekers have misunderstood this.
“Income support for the unemployed is neither salary nor permanent. It is someone’s last resort, temporary and the equivalent of begging in the Islamic countries. Working people pay it as taxes; it’s the people’s money,” he compares.
Part of Finnish policy is that society supports those in the weakest position. For example, the financial support received by the unemployed should be enough for the basic needs in life. The idea is to give people some income while looking for work. “Unemployment benefit is not enough for anything. The only way to survive in Finland on your own is to find a job for yourself, especially now, when many social benefits are being cut,” says a man from Somalia living in Finland.
Surviving by working
Living in Finland is more expensive than the European average. In 2017, Finland was eighth in a comparison of European price levels.
“Clothing, travel, food and living, you need a great deal of money for everything,” says the man from Somalia.
“If a family has two working adults, life is good. If there is only one person going to work, life can be financially difficult,” says the man from Afghanistan who has lived in Finland for years.
A woman from Iraq who has lived in Finland for more than 20 years has noticed that some asylum-seekers have a mistaken idea of Finnish social security. According to her, some think that the state just gives people free money.
“People are supposed to pay their living costs themselves, and only the most destitute are supported,” she explains.
“In Finland taxation is high, and everyone – even the unemployed – pay tax from their income, thus contributing to the creation of social well-being.”
Employment in Finland is supported in different ways, and being active oneself is particularly encouraged. In the opinion of many Finns, the will to work is a virtue, which is not dependent on nationality or cultural background.
“Finnish people respect those who support themselves, but not those who live for a long time on social handouts,” says a man of Kurdish background.
Employment requires the ability to adapt
Finding a job may often take time, particularly for an immigrant, as a requirement is usually proficiency in the Finnish language. Employment in Finland is not easy, even if the job-seeker already has a profession.
“In Finland, immigrants often have to study and supplement their expertise. Even so, it can still take a long time to find work, and you will not necessarily get a job corresponding to your own profession. This can be a big surprise for many,” says the man from Somalia who has lived in Finland for a long time.
The man from Afghanistan has experienced difficulties in finding work, but he finally succeeded through his own persevering efforts. He says that some immigrants to Finland wrongly avoid work on the basis of culture. The man is a Muslim and notes that in Finland alcohol, which is forbidden in his religion, is a part of Finnish culture and everyday life, and thereby also of many jobs.
“You can’t work if you just think that there they are selling forbidden alcohol and pork. So if the job is unacceptable to you, why do you then accept social benefits,” he asks and then says in justification:
“Benefits in Finland are partly collected from taxes received from the pork and alcohol industries, so you shouldn’t accept such benefits.”