Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki), Jan. 1, 2007
Vantaa residents most staunchly opposed to more immigration
Highly-educated residents of the Helsinki region are the most willing to accept immigrants into the area to help alleviate the labour shortage. According to a poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat and conducted by Suomen Gallup, labourers with a low level of education take the most sceptical view of increasing immigration.
Respondents were asked if they felt that the Helsinki region needed more immigrants to patch up the expected labour shortage. The question divided opinions in the Helsinki region nearly in half.
Of all respondents, 44 per cent felt that immigrants are needed, while 47 per cent were opposed to recruiting labour from abroad.
Attitudes toward increased immigration were clearly most negative in Vantaa, where only 35 per cent of respondents were in favour of it. More than half (56 per cent) were opposed to increasing immigration. In Espoo and Helsinki opinions were more or less equally divided between “yes” and “no”.
Party affiliation appeared to correlate somewhat with the answers. The most pro-immigration respondents were supporters of the Green League, 68 per cent of whom were in favour of more foreign workers. The greatest proportion of opponents of immigration was to be found among supporters of small political parties, and also to some extent among the Centre Party.
The survey indicates that the immigration issue is fairly confusing for Helsinki area residents supporting the Centre Party. As many as one in four of them could not say if the region needs more immigrants to ease the labour shortage. Half were against the idea, and 27 per cent were in favour.
In general, there was a significant correlation between the responses and the respondent’s profession and position in working life.
Among those in leading positions, or who work in high-level white collar posts, 55 per cent support and 37 per cent oppose the idea that more foreign labour is needed in the Helsinki region.
Among manual labourers, meanwhile, opponents of recruiting immigrants clearly outnumbered supporters.
A common factor behind the differences in views among population groups is educational background, says Juhani Pehkonen, deputy CEO of Suomen Gallup. The more highly educated a respondent is, the more likely he or she is to see a need for immigration as a way to tackle labour shortages.
In Vantaa, the average educational level is lower than in other parts of the Helsinki region.
Pehkonen feels that the influence of education on opinions is also a reason why opposition to immigration is high among those under the age of 25, even though the younger generations are often said to be more tolerant than the older ones.
“Those who are highly educated do not see immigrants as a socio-economic threat, as is the case with those with less basic education. There is quite demonstrable evidence of this”, says Dr. Magdalena Jaakkola, who has studied Finnish attitudes toward immigrants for many years.
“Also, overall prejudice is more common among those with a lower education.”
The poll involved telephone interviews with 1,002 people in Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa, conducted from December 12th to 18th. Respondents were all over the age of 18.
The margin of error was three percentage points in either direction.