Cleaning of buildings and restaurants and mobile food activities. These are the main industries where people with foreign background work, according to the latest data on employment of foreigners published by Statistics Finland.
The data analyzed by the Finnish statistical office cover the period 2010-2017, so the figures may seem a bit outdated. However, it is possible that the reality has not varied too much, because the reality depicted by those numbers fit with the frustration expressed by some foreigners every day on social media.
Especially some Facebook groups are loaded with complaints from people with foreign background who claim they have no choice but to do tasks for which no qualification is required despite having studied many years.
These complaints contrast with the official discourse of government agencies, which insist that Finland needs more and more international talent and highly skilled professionals in order to increase innovation and compete in the big world with the most dynamic economies.
The most common occupations
According to Statistics Finland's employment statistics, at the end of 2017 altogether 147,000 persons with foreign background were employed in Finland. Of them, 11,300 (around 8% of all foreign workers) were working in the industry of general cleaning of buildings.
In fact, data show that general cleaning of buildings has been the most common occupation for the population with foreign background since 2010. However, it is important to make it clear -and Statistics Finland explains it in its assessment- that in many cases foreigners enter this industry as their first job as soon as they arrive in the country. Later, those who can change to another sector.
Of the foreigners employed in Finland, every fifth of them (20%) worked either in the industry of general cleaning of buildings, restaurants and mobile food service activities or temporary employment agency activities. Still, the highest proportion worked in cleaning of buildings.
Source: Statistics Finland.
Changes over the years
General cleaning of buildings has been the most common industry for employed persons with foreign background since 2010. But the situation has not always been like this. From 2007 to 2009 the most common industry for persons of foreign origin was restaurants and mobile food service activities. Of course, those were years when the amount of immigrants in Finland was still very small.
In 2010, altogether 19.1% of those working in the industry of general cleaning of buildings were persons of foreign origin. But seven years later, in 2017, the share was around eight percentage points higher (26.9%). For its part, the share of people with foreign background among all employed persons had grown only 2.4 percentage points during the corresponding time period.
Differences between generations
The figures published by Statistics Finland also allow us to appreciate the first differences between generations:
Among first generation persons with foreign origin, who accounted for the majority of the working-age population of foreign origin, the most common industry was general cleaning of buildings (11,233 persons). Among second generation, the most common industry was temporary employment agency activities (634 persons).
In 2017, first generation persons with foreign origin, who had lived in the country for a shorter period of time, worked in the industry of general cleaning of buildings more often than those who had already lived in Finland for a longer period.
Of the employed having belonged to the population for one to three years, 11.5% worked in general cleaning of buildings; of those having resided in Finland for at least 15 years, slightly under four per cent (3.8%) worked in the industry. The employment rate for the first mentioned group was around 40%, for the latter around 60%.
Source: Statistics Finland.
There is a hopeful sign. The industry of tertiary education is also among the five most common industries only when the residence time in the country is one to three or four to six years.
The number of employed in the figure’s groups classified according to time resident in the country vary. In the group having belonged to the population for at least 15 years, there were more than 47,000 employed, in the other groups the number of employed was between 20,000 and 30,000.