Category Archives: Finland

Sweden Works At Integration Of Immigrants

Among the remarkable aspects of world wide immigration since the end of World War II has been the influx of thousands of people from African and Middle Eastern nations into Nordic societies. in the Swedish city of Malmo about 86% of those living in a suburb are first or second generation immigrants. As Americans quite understand the arrival of strangers from far off nations whose skin is darker than typical Swedes has resulted in a white flight. Anis, an immigrant from Bosnia, comments: “when I first got here fifteen years ago, I had Swedish neighbors. Today, there isn’t a single one left. Several who were interviewed in The Local argued the departure of native born Swedes has opened the door for a small but active group of fundamentalist Muslims to exert power in the area.

Maxine Camara, who heads Rosengard’s refugee welcome committe, laments that Islamic militants are able to obtain support since so many people are under-employed and have tales of prejudice. “A lot of young people here are out of work. Their parents don’t work, and they get their only social interaction in the Islamic millieu, which complicates integration.” Integration requires opportunity to work, to interact with people of diverse backgrounds and to become an active member of the community.

Both sides claim the other is at fault which is the norm when dealing with issues of integration of immigrants. Step one, as always, is securing meaningful work for those seeking employment and for schools that are successful with all students.

Dealing With Finnish School Shooting After Effects

Shootings in schools attract enormous attention in the world press and frequently give the illusion that such events are common in schools. Despite the rarity of such events, they are traumatic to children, to educators and to the community in which they occur. People assume a school is a safe area and children are protected in them against the evils of society. Last September, Matti Juhani Saari, a Finnish boy, entered a vocational high school and killed nine students and a teacher as well as himself. The Kauhajoki Project has been established to work with teachers, students and the community as emotional feelings continue to impact individuals. The project emphasizes, as part of a three year effort to assist the community a focus on students and the families of dead children. A budget of one million Euros has been allocated to provide trained professionals to work with those in need of emotional support.

This is an intelligent approach. It is all too often for communities to go through shock and pain and then attempt to put the event away. We lack these approaches to systematic study of what happens in a community in the aftermath of a school shooting.

Finnish Youth Fear Or Don’t Fear Future?

Recent surveys indicate a rather confused outlook on the future by Finnish youth. Although 85 percent agreed with the following statement: “my life is happy at present,” nearly 35% said they were depressed and 45% insisted they were lonely. Yes, 85% said they were happy but 42,000 young people claim they are unhappy as they prepare to enter the world of being an adult. At the moment most of them believe life is OK, but hovering in the future is an unknown factor. More than 80 percent believe their work future is OK, but half of the women fear they will lose their jobs. However, 90% believe fervently that an individual who has skills and works hard will always find a job. At the same time, 60% think they will not be able to get the job they desire in the future.

What does this confusion mean? Most probably it is a combination of age, the current times, and an awareness the world is moving through some form of transformation in which the end result will be different for most people, particularly those who live in more industralized societies. It is difficult to escape the sense of change, but as in most change, one can not see a clear outline of the process.

Athens Still Lacks Legal Mosques

About two hundred years ago, Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire and there were thousands of Muslims who lived in Athens. Fast forward two hundred years and it is 2009 and there are 120,000 Muslims in Athens, but not a single mosque in which people pray is legal under Greek laws. A Greek couple who rented their basement to some Muslims are being fined because the tenants converted the area into a mosque in which people can pray. Several thousand Pakistanis are fighting the closing of the mosque because it is the only one available for them to pray. Lawyers argue that one must secure permission to use an area as a mosque for prayer, but city authorities will not grant any such permission.

Neighbors complained about the mosque which they disliked because it led to the gathering of large crowds of people anxious to get into the small area. For years, many bodies and the European Union have complained about the absence of a legal mosque for Muslims, but for some strange reason city authorities just can’t get around to granting legal permission to pray.

What Should Be Retirement Age?

At a time of declining economies, people losing life savings and a severe reduction in the income of older people, the government of Finland is proposing to raise the retirement age from 63 to 65. We can assume the rationale behind this move is extending the work life of people which supposedly brings in more tax money and the other facet is delaying when people gain access to their retirement money. Finland does allow some agricultural workers to retire at age 56 as they pass on the farm to the next generation. The issue of retirement may well become one of the most significant during the coming years as governments balance economic pressure from paying retirement and seek to keep people working.

Life expectancy has been increasing and a person who retires at age 65 may well have anywhere from twenty to thirty years of productive life. This suggests the need to rethink the nature of what constitutes “retirement.” At the other end, delaying retirement means corporations are delaying promotion of younger people and making companies older in terms of who works. Is this beneficial to society? Do we need to open top echelons of government to younger people with new ideas.

If we only focus on economic ramifications of delayed retirement we lose perspective on important social components of the new concept of being retired.

Should Retirement Age Be Extended?

As the economic crisis deepens there is increasing talk about extending the age required for people to enter government retirement systems. Finland is currently debating raising the age to retire from 63 to 65. The ostensible reason advocated for such legislation is that people live longer than previously so it only stands to reason they should retire at an older age. However, the change has many implications. At a time when many corporations are laying off newly hired people, it results in the aging of their workforce. If those at the upper age end of a company delay retirement, it means younger people will have a more difficult time to move up in the company. An extension also fails to recognize that many people have spent their lives engaged in hard physical labor and retirement allows them some momentary physical rest at a time when their bodies are more prone to wear out.

Perhaps, it is time to recognize that retirement will be for those with greater wealth, a long time in which to live and without meaningful work or activities it will result in emotional issues. We need to rethink the entire process of retirement and describe in greater detail what being “retired” means in a post industrial society.

Violent Women-The Ignored Violence

There are numerous studies and campaigns to assist men who have violent tendencies, but relatively little is done about women who display such behaviors. A recent project by the Federation of Mother and Child Home Shelters studied 100 women who were seeking help for their violent behaviors. It is not common for a male who has been the subject of a woman’s aggressive actions to seek help from authorities since it makes him feel physically and sexually impotent. According to statistics, 40% of aggravated assaults in close relationships in Finland were committed by women. Hannele Torronen notes: “women are usually told that they can overcome their violence by just having some rest or that their aggressive behavior can be understood if their spouse is difficult.” Women simply do not feel comfortable telling anyone they are the cause of violence in the family.

The study indicates many women turn violence upon themselves and will cut themselves or punish the self by excessive eating. Perhaps, it is time to end gender bias and deal with female aggressive behavior.

Asylum Issues In Finland

The world of Europe has been dramatically changed since the end of World War II as millions of people have arrived from Africa and Asia in search of a better life both economically and politically. The Finnish parliament recently debated the nature of its asylum program which, most probably, is among the most lenient in the world. It is not surprising that right wing elements believe their nation’s open door policy is being abused by immigrants who claim the right of asylum when they most probably are seeking a better economic life for their families. Some critics are demanding that anyone whose application for asylum has been denied should immediately be deported to prevent them from using the system in order to continue living in Finland. There were also claims that since Finland is more receptive to asylum seekers, they ignore Sweden or Norway and head for Finland.

The issue is most probably more complex than those who use the system since immigration procedures also require extensive programs to integrate newcomers into the culture of the new country. Part of the problem in dealing with asylum seekers is the nature of how asylum is defined by a nation. In other words, what are the criteria established to justify allowing an immigrant to gain entry. There is no simple answer to that complex question.

The Diversification Of Finland

Most foreigners have visions of Finland as a land inhabited by people who are blond and blue eyed and have scant relation to the multicultural developments in the world. This view is now being proven to be completely incorrect as validated by the fact that one out of four marriages in Helsinki involved Finnish person marrying someone who was of foreign background and twelve percent were marriages in which both parties were foreign born. According to statistics when Finnish women marry someone from another nation it is a high probability he is from a Western European society, but when Finnish males marry, they more likely select a woman from Asia or Russia. The increase in immigration plus the greater probability Finns have traveled most probably has led to this shift in population.

In one sense, these marriages serve as bridges between cultures and integrate Finland in new ways that will eventually transform Finnish society into a multicultural blend of differing values and beliefs.

Finland Becoming Less European More Asian

Europe is undergoing a dramatic revolution in the composition of its population. Most people regard nations like Sweden or Finland as falling outside the immigrant surge which has impacted Europe over the past half century. Helsinki and some neighboring cities now have over 90,000 residents with an immigrant background and their numbers have grown by 25% in the past few years. In the early 1990s, immigrants came from Russia or Estonia, but the new wave is from Asia including numerous people immigrating from China and India. The Finnish government just granted immigration rights to a group of Palestinians who were living in Iraq. Finland also has a large number of immigrants from Somalia.

Immigrants tend to concentrate in neighborhoods already having people from their own background and they move into areas with cheap housing or government assisted housing since they are just entering the labor market and tend to have low wages jobs. Finland by the year 2050 may well be a rather diverse society. Welcome to the 21st century.