State and local authorities agree on challenges in immigrant integration

Judging from national and local integration programmes there are no greater differences in immigrant integration policy between the state administration and local authorities, nor between the big cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. This is probably due to their close interaction. This appears from a fresh study report from the City of Helsinki.

In a broader perspective integration concerns the whole society, in a narrower just employment

Integration is seen both by state and local authorities from a narrow and a broad perspective. According to the broad one, integration is a two-directional and comprehensive process that concerns the whole society. The narrow perspective focuses on as fast employment as possible for immigrants and what that would require.

According to the narrow approach, the most important integration-promoting measures are guidance and advice, initial assessment, integration plans and integration training. In principle, these forms of support and services have, since 2010, been at the disposal of all immigrants. In practice, they have still for the most part been targeted on persons having received international protection and on unemployed applicants for work.

Roles have been made clear through legislation

Finnish immigrant integration legislation prescribes the division of work and cooperation between state and local authorities, and in the law, roles and coordination seem quite clear. In practice, however, local authorities make less initial assessments and integration plans than has been assumed. Again, local authorities are important providers and enablers of integration training, at least in Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Of late, the Finnish integration system has been criticised for lack of coordination. Integration-promoting services consist of cross-administrational work, and both at state and local level, various administrative branches may often act rather independently. The state can steer local authorities through its funding – funding which has, however, often been considered insufficient with regard to the needs. A large proportion of the work is done in fixed-term projects. Better coordination would probably raise the impact of integration measures.

Closer analysis of the integration system requires more knowledge of the implementation

When studying integration policy many conclusions have to be drawn on assumptions, because essential data on how integration measures have been carried out are lacking both from state and local authorities. More information would be needed on which integration measures are taken and by whom, to what purpose, for whom and with what resources. With the present knowledge it is hard to form a reliable detailed overall picture of the integration system. Also, it is very difficult to assess policy impact.

A fresh working paper from Helsinki City Executive Office looks into Finnish integration policy from the angle of interaction and cooperation between national and local authorities. The analysis concerns, especially, the relationship in this respect between the state administration and the City of Helsinki and between the three big cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, namely Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa


Pasi Saukkonen: Interplay and co-operation between national and local levels in integration policy case Helsinki, Finland, Helsinki City Executive Office’s Working Paper 2017:4, pdf-publication.


senior researcher Pasi Saukkonen, +358 9 310 36405, pasi.saukkonen(at)