The Red Cross mapped competence of more than 2,000 asylum seekers: Difficult to enter Finnish labour market despite skills

Key Figures (11/2015-4/2019)
  • The Red Cross has mapped the competence of nearly 2,300 asylum seekers
  • 1,080 TET placements have taken place. TET is short for työelämään tutustuminen, meaning ‘workplace familiarisation placement’.
  • 270 asylum seekers have found work through this system
Asylum Seekers' Competence Inventories and Work Familiarisation

Recommendations of the Finnish Red Cross

  • Asylum seekers' opportunities for involvement, for familiarising themselves with Finnish working life and for genuine access to Finnish society must be supported during the entire asylum process. This helps asylum seekers to stay active, keep in good mental health and become integrated in society. Motivation to learn the local language, get to know the culture and local mores are at its highest immediately after arrival. Even if an asylum seeker is not given a residence permit, the experience and training they receive in Finland can be of use to them when they return to their country of origin.
  • An individual competence inventory which maps each asylum seeker's particular skillset must be guaranteed all adults seeking asylum at all reception centres.
  • The competence inventory must be a conversation about resources which supports and encourages the asylum seeker to identify and make use of their own skills and strengths.
  • Mapping the competence of each newly-arrived asylum seeker makes it easier and quicker to draw up an integration plan for those who are granted residence permits and move to a Finnish municipality. The competence inventory must systematically be transferred to the municipality the new resident moves to.
  • It must be made possible for all asylum seekers to familiarise themselves with Finnish working life with guidance and support.
  • From June 1st a change in the Aliens Act (Ulkomaalaislaki) is set to further limit the right to work of asylum seekers. The Red Cross believes that the right to work should be guaranteed as early in the asylum process as possible and that the right should be preserved throughout the process.

A large part of asylum seekers are people of prime working age whose first wish is to find employment, support themselves and their families and be independent of handouts from society. They have many kinds of training and skills but find it hard to gain entry to the Finnish labour market.

This has been shown by a study for the Finnish Red Cross that has been done at the University of Eastern Finland called 'Asylum Seekers' Competence as a Resource for Society'. The study is part of the ALL-YOUTH research project and financed by the Strategic Research Council.
The study analysed the competence inventories of 2,003 adult asylum seekers. The Red Cross did the inventories of the skillsets of asylum seekers in 2016–2018 at the 43 reception centres it was running. The project has been supported by technology consulting company Accenture.
Previously, the skills and competence of asylum seekers had hardly been mapped at all. The Red Cross competence inventories chart the education, language skills, previous work experience and, when applicable the wishes regarding training and employment, of participating asylum seekers. The aim of the inventory work is to promote the integration of the asylum seekers, as well as their opportunities for engagement and finding their place in Finnish society. Having a competence inventory done has helped asylum seekers to find placement for familiarising themselves with Finnish working life (or TET, short for työelämään tutustumispaikka).
‘Doing the competence inventory is also a conversation about resources which focuses on the life history and skills amassed by the asylum seeker. Having that conversation has helped asylum seekers to see their own strengths, which has been useful when creating a CV and applying for a job,’ says Kristiina Kumpula, Secretary General of the Finnish Red Cross. 


One in four has higher education experience

Most of the asylum seekers that took part in the mapping of skillsets (or 86 %) were men. The most common countries of origin of the respondents were Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
More than half of the participants (56 %) had attended at least six years of comprehensive and middle school. A quarter (25 %) said they had attended a school of higher education. Of these, more than half (56 %) said they had a degree. Among the women, a fifth (22 %) had not gone to school at all, while the corresponding number for the men was more than one in ten (14 %).
Men had the most work experience from building and sales work as well as machine workshops, installations and repair work. The women's work experience was focused on service and clothing industry work but also housework.


Individual professional direction a challenge

When thinking about their future, the asylum seekers frequently mentioned their need to do be active and do something meaningful. This was witnessed by numerous answers along the lines of ‘I'll do any kind of work at all’. In addition, the mapping also showed in which areas there are opportunities for employment, such as in the field of building.
‘Asylum seekers are aware of their vulnerable position in the labour market. They see their own opportunities in the labour market in relationship to other asylum seekers or those who have recently received their residence permit and they don't dare to or know how to dream of anything else,’ says project researcher Tuula Joro at the University of Eastern Finland.
Joro says a more individually-tailored professional direction in a new environment would require more contact with the majority population and getting to know various areas of working life in Finland. Familiarising TET periods, for instance, can bring out new talents and inspire work-related aspirations.
‘Combined with individual counselling with an expert in integration, this would give the people taking part in the process of integration a chance to have professional ambitions that are built on their own skills and desires. On such a basis people could have the sort of work citizenship and professional identity that is highly regarded in our society,’ says Joro.
The Red Cross continues doing competence inventories at the 20 reception centres it runs. In the future, the Finnish Immigration Service will conduct competence inventories at all the reception centres in the country.