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PrintEstonians working in Finland aspire to social citizenship – survey
"Estonian immigrants strongly emphasized their wish to be good workers and taxpayers, thus earning their place in the Finnish welfare state. This should, in their view, place them in an equal position with native Finns," researcher Rolle Alho from the Swedish School of Social Science at the University of Helsinki told the Finnish news agency STT.
Alho, together with University of Tampere lecturer Markku Sippola, surveyed 51 Estonians living in Finland by conducting with them biographical in-depth interviews.
"The Estonian interviewees greatly appreciated the Finnish welfare state and compared it to Estonia where an individual cannot expect similar support from the state, for example after becoming unemployed," Alho said.
Based on the interviews, Estonians have positive attitudes towards the institutions and norms of the Finnish welfare state and wish to be fully valued members of the Finnish society. The interviewees highlight their participation in the labor market, diligent payment of taxes, justified use of the welfare benefits and services offered by the Finnish state, and membership in trade unions and unemployment funds.
On the other hand, Estonians expressed negative attitudes towards other immigrant groups and their wish to keep their distance from them, as in their view, these other groups are non-deserving of social services as they do not contribute to the Finnish welfare state. The distance to other immigrant groups, in some cases, also appeared as racist comments on the immigrants who, according to the interviewees, abuse the system, the researches noted.
"In today's escalating immigration debate, one should keep in mind that it is easier for Estonian people to merge with the Finnish society and learn the language. Estonians do not experience racism and discrimination in the same way as many other immigrant groups. On the other hand, the people we interviewed have little understanding of the reasons why certain groups are more often left without work and are unable to integrate into society as easily," Alho points out.
In the conclusions of the survey, the researches highlighted that the primary motive for Estonian immigrants for taking up residence in Finland is becoming members of the welfare state, and obtaining social citizenship. By working and paying taxes, they will also contribute to the functioning of the welfare state.
"We want to emphasize, however, that even though the Estonians appreciate the security provided by the Finnish welfare state, their main reason for immigration to Finland is not social subsidies and full enjoyment of them, but the relatively high salaries and good working conditions," Alho said. "According to our conclusions, the Estonian desire to support the Finnish welfare system is explained by their experience that in risk situations, the Finnish society does more to protect its members," he added.
The article summarizing the results of the research by Alho and Sippola, "Estonian Migrants' Aspiration for Social Citizenship in Finland: Embracing the Finnish Welfare State and Distancing from the Non-Deserving," is published in the Journal of International Migration and Integration.