Sharetribe opposes Finland’s proposed immigration reform

Finland’s new government seeks to make immigration more difficult for most people. They also aim to make it harder for immigrants to stay in the country. We at Sharetribe believe this reform is discriminatory and wrong.

Aug 4, 2023

Helsinki photographed from the sea facing the market square and Helsinki Cathedral. The Helsinki Eye skywheel at the pier is on the right side of the image.

In June 2023, Finland's new government published its program for the next four years. This government, composed of the National Coalition, Finns Party, Swedish People's Party of Finland, and the Christian Democrats, proposes to make immigration to Finland more difficult and make staying harder for immigrants who are already here.

The policies, if enacted, would include but are not limited to the following:

  • Raising income requirements for residency permits.
  • Raising requirements for permanent residency from a four-year residency period to six and adding a language test.
  • Make the path to citizenship more difficult, with an increased residence period and other requirements.
  • Reducing the refugee quota in half from 1050 to 500.
  • Creating a separate and limited social security system for immigrants on work and study residency permits.
  • Revoking a work residency permit after three months of unemployment.
  • Mandating employers to inform the Finnish Immigration Service when the contract of an employee on a work residence permit ends. Failure to report would result in sanctions.

We at Sharetribe believe the proposed immigration reform to be unreasonable, misguided, and discriminatory. This, to us, is an uncontroversial opinion. The reform goes against our values in fundamental ways.

Instead of welcoming people who want to come here to work and live, the reform makes Finland (more) hostile to immigrants.

The reform reduces people to their labor and immediate tax-paying potential. Instead of treating people as equals, the reform seeks to differentiate between low and high-income immigrants, offering expedited paths to residency permits if your salary is high. 

It does not recognize the importance of low-income labor nor that anyone can increase their salary over time through work and education. 

The reform also aims to create different support systems for citizens and immigrants.

Essentially, the reform expects immigrants to invest in Finland without Finland investing in them in return.

These policies, if enacted, will affect the lives of a huge number of people already living here. Equally, they will affect the choices of people considering coming to Finland in the future. And that is their purpose, of course. The same government that created this reform has spent the summer embroiled in scandal after scandal, as links to far-right organizations and past racist online messages have come to light

This post is our perspective on the reform. Outside of personal experiences, we're not experts on this topic. So we're keeping to what we know, which is Sharetribe, a company built by immigrants. Many great people and organizations have brought up broader issues with the reform. At the end of this post, we've linked some of these texts and other resources for anyone who wants to learn more and join the fight against the reform. 

Sharetribe wouldn't be what it is today without immigrants

Sharetribe is based in Finland and was founded by two Finns. And yet, ever since our early days, the team has been international. Immigrants are and have been crucial to Sharetribe's success. Without our immigrant colleagues, both past and present, Sharetribe would not be what it is today.

So we have a vested interest in these policies not becoming a reality. Half of the current Sharetribe team are immigrants. We've studied, worked, and built lives in Finland. And paid plenty of taxes while at it. 

If the proposed policies had been in effect when we were planning to move to Finland, it's likely some of us wouldn't be here today. And now, the question is: is it worth staying? Why invest in a country that is not prepared to invest in you?

Not to mention, everyone at Sharetribe has a job. Many of us are EU citizens. And still, the possibility of this reform being enacted is already affecting team members and our loved ones. The psychological toll on immigrants in more precarious or less privileged situations is much more severe, not to mention the material impact if the reform comes into effect. 

The reform would also harm Sharetribe in the future. We may miss a great future teammate who never came here because Finland was not a welcoming place. Another may already be planning to leave.

So we have a vested interest in seeing this reform not happen. We are an international team and company. Like most tech companies, we operate in a global market (98% of our customers are not based in Finland). We want everyone at Sharetribe to feel at home in Finland, regardless of background, ethnicity, or citizenship status. We want the taxes that our immigrant employees pay to help them the exact same way they help Finnish citizens.

Being a diverse team makes us better, more innovative and gives us perspective. We want to be more diverse, not less. As a majority-white company, we have a long way to go. And the government is actively working against making Finland – and us – more diverse.

How Sharetribe supports immigrant employees 

At Sharetribe, we've taken steps to make sure that everyone can lead balanced lives and that we can succeed at our jobs as well as our careers in general. In the spirit of equity, we recognize that this means different things to different people – in this case, Finnish citizens and immigrants. Here are some ways we support our immigrant employees.

  • Since 2021, the company pays for Finnish residence permit processing fees for any employee who needs one.
  • Every Sharetribe team member has a learning budget. We can use the budget for learning activities and materials to develop skills important to our role and career. Anyone who wants to learn Finnish or Swedish can use their learning budget to fund their language studies. Sharetribe's working language is English, but knowing Finnish improves employees' positions in the wider Finnish job market.
  • Sharetribe offers full freedom to choose where to work. While the majority of our team is based in the Helsinki area and works at the office at least some days a week, coming to the office is not mandatory. Many of us have spent time working from outside of Finland, staying with friends and family.
  • We offer mental health support and services (for all employees). Wondering if you're going to be affected by the reform and if you're ever going to be in a position where you need to find a job in three months is mentally taxing. Simply belonging to a marginalized group can cause stress. Easy access to mental health support is vital to well-being. 

In hiring, Sharetribe does not mandate Finnish (or Swedish) skills. Our working language is English. Requiring Finnish for a role where speaking the language is not necessary is a discriminatory hiring practice.

And if the position would require communicating in Finnish (which has not yet really happened at Sharetribe), we do not mandate native-level Finnish. Finnish is a language like any other. For example, our marketing team at Sharetribe has no native English speakers, and yet we produce top-notch content in English. The person you hire does not need to be a native Finnish speaker to succeed in the role.

We also have an anonymous recruitment process to reduce bias in hiring. We recognize that hiring bias is unconscious and narrows down job opportunities for candidates from marginalized groups and prevents companies from building diverse teams. In our process, the decision on who to invite for in-person interviews is made solely based on candidates' answers to job-related questions.

If you have tips or resources on further ways to support our employees to share, we're always happy to learn more.

More on the immigration reform – and what happens next

The government will return from a summer break in sessions on September 5th, 2023. This is when they start implementing their program and enacting the reform into law. Below, we've linked to public statements from Finnish organizations opposing the reform. Not all of them present the exact same critiques of the reform as we (or each other), but they have great insight into the problems in the reform from different perspectives. This list is not exhaustive and may be updated later.

Statements in English:

Statements in Finnish:

Sign a petition:

The Specialists in Finland community is a great resource for updates and upcoming events against the reform.

It's also important to recognize that this is not just about this particular immigration reform. Finnish companies can do more to dismantle systems of racism and discrimination in Finland that affect people on a daily basis. An important step in this is to educate yourself on anti-racism, inclusivity, and recognizing unconscious biases.

Below are two DEI training providers Sharetribe team members have found valuable in learning about diversity, equity, and inclusion and can warmly recommend.

  • Crest Impact provides diversity, equity, and inclusion training for both organizations and individuals.
  • Inklusiiv researches DEI topics and helps organizations to transform DEI into action.
Photo by Veikko Venemies on Unsplash.

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