Finland has a strong economy with a high GDP and a strong position among European economies and as a global player. Finding a job in this economy might be a challenge though, and expats need to be aware of required permits, tax regulations and other issues including recognition of certain foreign qualifications. That said, there certainly are a few gaps in the job market that foreign nationals can exploit.
For an expat to work in Finland, a residence permit is normally required. Exceptions to this include citizens of EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and other foreign nationals with a valid visa or Schengen residence permit. For expats with jobs already secured, the residence permit process is dependent on the type of work. For specific information on the need for and types of work and residence permits, contact the embassy directly.
When working in Finland, expats must have a tax card and follow tax regulations, paying tax on their income both from abroad and in the country. Another aspect of working life in Finland is that most employees are members of a trade union. This will cost a fee, though it is tax-deductible.
To secure employment, expats should understand the job market, how to go about their search as well as how to do business given Finland's work culture.
Job market in Finland
The service sector makes up a substantial portion of the workforce with the government being a significant employer. Jobs can be found across public and private sectors in education, healthcare, hospitality, transport and commerce. Some of these industries have labour shortages, including IT, hospitality, accommodation and catering, which leaves the door open for foreign nationals to secure jobs.
Teaching English as a foreign language in Finland is another popular opportunity as English is in high demand. Expats are likely to find work as freelance teachers, giving lessons to everyone from businesspeople to children at winter camps.
Entrepreneurship is actively promoted and starting a business has been made easier in recent years. As a result, more small and medium-sized businesses have been springing up and are looking internationally for employees.
New arrivals must also understand that certain foreign qualifications may not be recognised, particularly for some doctors and lawyers. For these cases, further training, as well as language proficiency in Finnish, may be required.
- For more on the recognition of foreign qualifications, visit the official website of the Finnish National Agency for Education.
Finding a job in Finland
When relocating, looking for work may be stressful. Some new arrivals may already have a job secured through a transfer from their company, but for those who don't have employment secured, job portals would be the go-to option to look for work.
Thanks to its great social welfare system, Finland extends its support to foreigners just as it would to its citizens. Expats are encouraged to be income-generators who help boost the economy and live happier lives in general. New arrivals can easily find support in job searching as well as integrating into their new homes and society.
One major contribution is the opportunity to learn Finnish or Swedish as a free course in universities, whether the expat is formally a student or not. For some large companies and sectors such as IT or teaching English as a foreign language, being able to communicate fluently in Finnish is obviously less important. Unfortunately, the job market is not altogether easy to enter as a foreigner and so learning Finnish will be a great benefit when looking for and securing a job.
On top of language, experience is also important. Recent graduates with little experience may find it harder to secure employment in Finland compared to those with more years of experience.
- Expats can visit the European Employment Services website to assist with the job search.
- Jobs in Finland hosts job listings aimed at English speakers across Finland.
Work culture in Finland
Voted one of the best places to live for work-life balance, Finland's work culture emphasizes employee wellness. The workweek in Finland is normally 40 hours, although many sectors allow their staff to work shorter hours. Most workplaces also offer around four weeks of paid holiday leave annually for their employees to enjoy summer. Time management is important in Finnish culture and employees make sure to produce and complete their tasks in the allocated work time.
Finnish workers typically experience flat hierarchies, and it is quite normal for colleagues to refer to each other by name rather than by title. Business communication is normally quite open, and Finnish employees are generally free to speak their minds. That said, courtesy and politeness are still highly valued. Punctuality is also important both in work culture and in social settings.
What do expats say finding a job and working in Finland?
"Being active when job hunting is very important. The work situation is changing a lot, and knowing the language is a big advantage when applying for work, as well as having the right network." See our interview with Filipino expat Mercy to learn more about expat life in Finland.
"Work-life balance is great in Finland and many companies have a flat hierarchy. The start-up scene is thriving, especially in the tech field. In the workplace, Finns value skills, adaptability and transparency." Italian expat Paola shares her experiences as an expat living in Finland in our interview.
►Doing Business in Finland is a useful resource
►Read more about the Lifestyle in Helsinki to understand culture and customs
Are you an expat living in Finland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Finland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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