Photo: Lauri Rotko

Helsinki to improve its English-language services

Helsinki aims to be the world's most functional city and to offer the best possible conditions for urban life, both for those who already live in the city and for those who contemplate moving here. One of the distinctive features of a modern city is to have well-run English-language services and to be mindful of people from different backgrounds. Mayor Jan Vapaavuori has appointed a committee with the task of looking into the development needs of the city's English-language services. The committee includes representatives from the city's administrative divisions but also from Supercell and Neogames Finland.

Helsinki must nurture its ability to make itself an appealing place for international professionals as a means to safeguard the city's future success. This will have an impact on the city's ability to generate vitality, attract investments and innovations and cope with the competition against other international metropolises.

The city's objective is to take the needs regarding English even better into consideration, to develop new English-language services and to be more active in its communication with expatriates already residing in the city and to attract new international professionals to Helsinki.

The population with foreign background grows in importance as the city becomes increasingly international. Almost half of the country's inhabitants with foreign background live in the Helsinki metropolitan area (i.e. the Capital Region). Out of Helsinki's population, 15.5 percent are people of foreign heritage. About two-thirds of the population growth in the Capital Region originates from beyond Finland's border.
"Helsinki as an international and growing city is pitted in direct competition against other big cities, for instance, with regard to how it is able to attract professionals and investors. For Helsinki to grow more attractive, the city will be required to work with determination to become more international and to offer better services in English, e.g. to families that move here. The committee has been given the task to clarify the present state of the services and to assess where improvements are most urgently needed," says Mayor Jan Vapaavuori.
Together with the national government, the universities and the business life, the city has initiated a set of measures regarding industrial policy to be able to match the needs of an increasingly international city. The objective is to attract skilled labour and, through improved English-language services and information etc., to make it easier for international professionals who arrive in the region to commit to the Finnish society and labour market. For instance, the number of students that can be enrolled in English-language schools and early childhood education will be doubled, as high-quality education is an important reason for international professionals to choose to settle in Helsinki.

The committee that has been appointed by Mayor Vapaavuori will draw up a proposal in February/March and prepare the realisation of essential services in English whose availability there is the most pressing need to address. The committee is chaired by head of unit, immigration and employment services, Ilkka Haahtela. The other committee members are communications director Liisa Kivelä, project manager Elina Nurmi, planner Elina Eskelä and senior planning officer Laura Kyntölä from the City Executive Office, the pedagogical expert Satu Koistinen from the Education Division, project manager Olga Silfver from Helsinki Vocational College, development planner Tiina Larva from the Culture and Leisure Division, and communications manager Jaana Juutilainen-Saari from the Social Services and Health Care Division. The committee is joined by expert members Melanie Dower, who is a manager at Supercell, and KooPee Hiltunen, the director of Neogames Finland.