• Chiara Costa-Virtanen

Do short term contracts obstruct the way to integration?

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

According to the Tilastokeskus, the statistical institution of Finland, Finland's employment rate increased and currently stands at 72.4%. The thing that has not been brought to discussion though, is the quality of this increasing employment.

In Finland the trends are continuously favoring short fixed term contracts or zero hour contracts, as quick researches online on mol.fi or other job search websites can confirm.

These kinds of contracts are a quick solution to employment for those willing to get an income, but are unfavorable for most of the employees. The job market at the moment is not easy for Finns either, but the ones who are paying the price the most from these adverse conditions are the workers with foreign background, making them financially and emotionally vulnerable.

With the need of building a network, getting a kick start into the Finnish job market, or simply pay their bills, many job seekers with immigrant background are forced to settle with involuntary part time positions.

With these temporary contracts more people may be in work, it is true, but this work is unstable and not guaranteed long-term, so it doesn’t provide the security that normally comes from being long term employed. Also according to the City of Helsinki ( kvartti.fi ) foreign-born people often work under short-term contracts and less favourable working conditions than the native population.

In most cases, these short-term jobs are interspersed with periods of unemployment, causing in short term less paid taxes and less power of expense and in long term a big pension gap. This is written without mentioning the extra burden on Kela and Te-Toimisto.

Statistics have showed that shorted contract workers do their jobs with lower pay and fewer benefits than permanent employees: paid holidays are much less than the colleagues with longer contracts, a maternity leave will most likely end with a non renewal of the position, without mentioning the mental distress of not having a stable job and not be able to become fully part of a team.

It is difficult to fit in a group, to feel part of something and feel finally integrated into the hosting country`s work life, when the co-workers know that you are going to leave eventually.

Researches also show that unfavorable contracts demotivate the worker to do the job properly. When the enthusiasm is low, or when the anxiety of uncertainty is strong, employees don't feel committed to their position or to the employer. A team building, the hopes of making a career out of own efforts, push instead the worker give the best of him/herself.

On the contrary, a foreign worker involved in long term in a work process, means a person that gives a different point of view because he/she as been shaped inside a different work life, and that can enrich the work place with a different carnet of problem solving.

Some employers might think that these kind of contracts motivate their workers to give their best, while long employment puts workers in a too "comfort zone". That is not the case. Fixed term contracts are good to cover a maternity leave or long term sick leave, or some seasonal work. But definitely are not proficient in the long term growth of a company. Long-term contracts reduce the number of people that is not fully trained into the company`s policy and work-how, favoring the growth of a functioning team. The more time a person and a team have a particular program, the more familiar they become, giving space for improvement.

The uncertainty also create in this way a negative atmosphere at the workplace: workers are scared that the colleagues will be favored over them in terms of career advancement or contracts renewals, creating an unhealthy competition among them.

The truth is that these contracts will be considered mainly by people who are unemployed, looking for first employment in Finland or trying to get a longer / permanent contract, using then the position for making some network and have some temporary wage while looking for something better. This means that more experienced individuals may not be willing to take on the temporary employment: this results in missing out the best candidates with experience and strong skills.

A good start to change the habit is to simply not accept a temporary contract without discussing the desire of a permanent position. It can give to the employer the impression of real commitment to the work place.

On the other hand, the employers should use short fixed-term contracts as a probationary period to see how the employee works and how the company can benefit from him/her, but with the prospect of a longer commitment.