Helsinki is becoming an international metropolis that contributes to the world in the areas of science, culture, business, welfare and sustainability.
At the same time, the residents of Helsinki are becoming more international and the number of people who do not speak Finnish or Swedish account for almost one fifth of the city's population.
The change has created a language barrier, which has increased the divide between the residents and made integration into the society harder.
English language skill is the common nominator among the diverse group of newcomers.
It has been proposed that Helsinki should adopt English as one of the official service languages. It would enable people to participate in the society without Finnish or Swedish when they moved in the city.
Learning Finnish or Swedish should not be a prerequisite to integrate into the society, but rather a byproduct of the integration process.
Accepting English as a service language would make the city more welcoming and open for everyone, and easier to approach
Accepting English as a service language would make the city more welcoming and open for everyone, and easier to approach. Many studies show that Helsinki is lacking communality and building a bridge over the language barrier will help greatly to boost inclusivity.
The change will encourage liaison between international and native residents. Finland ranks very high in the EU in English language skill, and hence the change is more about change of approach than filling a skill gap.
Recent OECD study shows that Finland is lagging behind other Nordic countries in foreign investment. To attract foreign investment, Finland should become the environment of a choice for top contributors.
Everyone must participate
Threshold of starting to study, work and live here shouldn't be difficult because of the language. It's important to create the environment in which those foreign talents would be encouraged to learn Finnish and Swedish after settling in the community. They shouldn't be discouraged from the beginning by not being able to communicate with locals or not being able to find information.
Finland has a highly educated workforce, its quality of life is world-renowned and our country is stable. What we need is to create an environment that everyone can participate in to make Finland a bigger contributor to the world to prosper.
*Mikko Hurskainen is a Technology Executive and a candidate for Helsinki City Council in the June 2021 municipal elections.