Investing in the integration of people with foreign background and realisation of equality worthwhile to Helsinki

The employment rate of immigrants in Helsinki is clearly lower and the unemployment rate higher than the equivalent figures for the original population. The economic fluctuation affects especially the immigrants' situation on the labour market. However, there is now a slight improvement in the employment situation of immigrants. These are some of the findings in Helsinki City Executive Office's fresh research report, which focuses on integration in terms of employment, income and housing.

Both the number of and the relative share of people with foreign backgrounds has grown rapidly in Helsinki. In 2016, there were around 95,000 of them in Helsinki, which is 15 percent of the City's population. A majority of them were born abroad, but the number and share of those born in Finland is also growing. The employment, living conditions and well-being of people with foreign backgrounds are of great importance to the people themselves, but also to the entire City. The City of Helsinki keeps track of the integration of immigrants and how their children make it in their lives. Investing in the furthering of integration and realisation of equality is worthwhile to the City. For the planning and implementation of effective means, the City needs information with sufficient details of the integration.

Immigrants settle on lower education and salary levels

Among immigrants, people with Somali, Iraqi and Afghan backgrounds are in the toughest situation on the labour market. On the other hand, a positive development is related to the time spent in the country, especially for women. The difference compared to the original population is still considerable, also in terms of average income. The differences can be seen in the difficulties that immigrants have finding employment, but also in how they often work in fields with lower education and salaries, as well as in part-time jobs and fixed-term employments.

Immigrants usually live in rented housing

Helsinki's immigrants often live in rented housing, the majority them in Arava or interest subsidy housing. The latter form of housing is popular especially among people with a Somali background, but also common in many other background country groups. Compared to Finnish backgrounds, especially people with Somali backgrounds have a lot of large household-dwelling units, comprising more than five persons.

However, the integration does improve with the time spent in the country: the employment improves, the income level rises and the opportunities to move on to owner-occupied housing increase.

Immigrants are not a single group: background country, the reason for moving and the time spent in the country affect the work and income level

It is well worth noting that immigrants form a very heterogeneous group. The living conditions vary greatly, for example, according to background country, gender and time spent in the country. In Helsinki, there are many successful immigrants and for some groups, the situation is even better than that of the Helsinki residents belonging to the original population on average. At the same time, people with foreign backgrounds are often faced with unemployment and low income levels. This applies especially when the immigrants have come from countries from which there are a lot of refugees and asylum-seekers.

The research review includes an inspection of the employment and income level and housing circumstances of immigrants in 2016. The research is based on material which the cities of Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa and Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council ordered from Statistics Finland and it puts emphasis on the living conditions and situation in life of immigrants, or people born abroad with foreign backgrounds. The report also provides a glance of how the so-called second generation, born in Finland, is doing on the labour market.


Pasi Saukkonen: Ulkomaalaistaustaisten kotoutuminen Helsingissä vuonna 2016. Työllisyys, tulot ja asuminen, City of Helsinki, Study Reports 2018:3, pdf publication.

More information:

Senior Researcher  Pasi Saukkonen, tel. +3589 310 36405, e-mail: