A sense of inclusion is a resource for the work community – and creating it is everyone’s responsibility

The Immigrants in Work Life webinar focused on challenges related to inclusion and work ability of employees with foreign backgrounds at Finnish workplaces. The webinar was the second in the Demography Talks series and sparked lively discussion between researchers and the audience.

“When discussing immigrants, it is easy to forget that there are also a lot of people born in Finland with an immigrant background as well returning migrants. They often face the same challenges in their workplaces as immigrants who have just arrived in the country, said Research Fellow Sari Vanhanen.

“It is important that people can feel like they belong to the work community. The receptivity of the work community concerns all new employees, but is particularly pronounced for immigrants. The sense of inclusion and appreciation are resources for the entire work community that improve everyone’s well-being at work and coping.

Creating an experience of inclusion and belonging is all about the work community’s practices, interaction and communication, the role of management and the immediate supervisor as well as emotional agency. Emotional agency refers to a holistic understanding of how emotions affect work life and the activities of an organization.

During the webinar, Sari Vanhanen presented research carried out in the Mobile Futures project related to the challenges of work community inclusion.

Immigrants in the care sector often have better work ability than the majority of the population

The study presented by Research Professor Ari Väänänen focused on the work disability of immigrants and the majority of the population in the care sector. The study was carried out in co-operation between the LIFECON project and the University of Helsinki Centre of Excellence in Research on Ageing and Care. The study compared the sickness absences of care workers born abroad and in Finland.

The result of the study was slightly surprising. Immigrants from Africa and Asia in particular, as well as those from Russia and the Balkans, had clearly fewer long-term sickness absences than representatives of the majority of the population. During the three-year follow-up period, 35% of care workers born in Finland had at least one sickness absence period of more than 10 days, compared to only 21% of those who had migrated from African and Asian countries.

“One factor among many that explains the results is the so-called Healthy Immigrant Effect. Especially those who have moved from further away are often healthier than the majority of the population,” says Ari Väänänen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

“On the other hand, people from non-EU countries may use their right to collect sickness allowance sparingly because they do not know our system well or are afraid of losing their job.

In the future, as the prevalence of care work performed by immigrants increases and work communities become multicultural, the importance of maintaining immigrants’ work ability will be highlighted.

A person is not just a package or a number, but they have a life around them

“Immigrants in Work Life” was clearly an interesting and relevant topic, as nearly 400 people registered for the webinar and a total of 250 attended. In the chat, participants actively shared links to various materials created to support immigrants and employers. In addition to language skills requirements, the discussion highlighted questions such as organizations’ ability and willingness to welcome immigrants.  We still have a lot to improve in the attitudes of both individuals and work communities as well as in how well we understand the situation of immigrants.

“A person is not just a package or a number, but they have their life around them,” Sari Vanhanen said at the end of the event, summing up her thoughts.

A recording of the webinar will be available for viewing for a period of two weeks.

The next Demography Talks webinar is on 7 November 2023 and its topic is Migration in Finland and regional differences.

Further information

  • Susan Kuivalainen, Director of Demography, Finnish Centre for Pensions, tel. +358 29 411 2184  susan.kuivalainen@etk.fi
  • Sari Vanhanen, Research Fellow, Migration Institute of Finland, (Mobile Futures project), tel. +358 40 163 4890, sari.vanhanen@migrationinstitute.fi
  • Ari Väänänen, Research Professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (LIFECON project), tel. +358 50 511 0530, ari.vaananen@ttl.fi

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