Europe is my oyster: experiences of Finns working abroad
Department of Social Studies University of Lapland Rovaniemi, Finland
Transnational mobility within Europe has been moderately on the rise and the European Union encourages labour mobility to create a common European labour market. My conference paper looks at the experiences of Finns working in other EU countries, based on a Working in Europe online survey, which was conducted in 2008. In addition data from a longitudinal record data on a 10 per cent cohort of Finns born in 1973 and 1978 is utilised.
The respondents of the survey were found via a method of snowball contact. Thanks to the free movement rights and the ease of migration, mobile EU citizens are a "hidden population" in the destination country and they cannot be easily accessed to form a statistically representative sample. Therefore the results of the survey cannot be generalised to represent the views or career paths of the whole population of Finns living abroad.
The responses of the survey can, however, give an interesting view to the working life experiences of at least this group of tertiary educated Finns in other EU countries. It is well known, that when transferring abroad the loss of cultural capital, as well as problems with degree recognition and knowledge of the local language may worsen the migrants´ labour market situation. Yet the majority of the 364 Finns, whose survey responses were analysed, rate their experiences as positive.
My paper outlines four explanations to this almost univocal happiness. Firstly Finns seem to have good standing compared with other mobile groups and their education holds its value abroad. Secondly they work in international environments where employee nationality per se is not very significant. Thirdly many respondents were employed because of their language skills, especially because they speak Finnish and Swedish. Fourthly, it can be argued, that the sample is biased: perhaps only those who are happy responded, whereas those who were disappointed did not reply - they returned back home. To supplement this picture and account for the relative weight of explanation number four, a set of more thorough qualitative interviews is envisioned as a continuation of the study.