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How the Work Community Readily Pigeonholes Immigrants in Finland

Wednesday, 25 May 2011
A classic form of prejudice against immigrants is to view them as a group cast all in the same mould, says Olga Silfver, a planning officer in the immigration department of the city of Helsinki. This bias has an impact on their employment prospects.

There have been plenty of discussions about the employment of immigrants. However, little has been said about the employers’ attitude towards giving them jobs.
Media reports account for some of the employers’ prejudice, according to Silfver, because they paint a picture of immigrants as jobless and full of problems.
“A classic form of prejudice against immigrants is grouping them together. When I say 'immigrant', what do you imagine?” Silfver asks.
She points out that an immigrant might have come from any country in the world, representing any culture or religion.


A question of empathy
Silfver says that immigrants themselves are sometimes guilty of preconceptions.
“When my surname was Tarasenko, I would rarely get invited to interviews, but I can’t be sure whether it was because of my name or because of my short work experience and youth,” she recalls.
The essential question here is one of empathy, Silfver says.

“If a person came to the country, for example, 20 years ago, perhaps the first question to them should not be, So how are things in your home country? The person’s home country is already here, but the question emphasises that they don’t belong.”

Having come to Finland at the age of 16 for family reasons, Silfver attained a diploma in sociology and built her life in Finland. She is now married and planning a bilingual family. She says that she has encountered prejudice too, but that has not dampened her resolve.
“I used to get asked a lot when I would leave. Now it’s not asked anymore, which is nice, because I’m here and I’m staying.”

News Source: Yle Finland

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