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Getting a job in Finland can be difficult – and living, and especially housing in the capital region, is expensive, while taxes on well-paid jobs are high, although there may be special arrangements for foreigners. There is little informal work to be found and some classes of jobs require at least a remedial level of Finnish and Swedish (although foreigners may be exempted from the requirement). Many jobs require recognised formal qualifications; an appropriate exam and work experience from abroad may not count. For some jobs you just need to pass a test, which may be easy for somebody in the field, and your to-be employer may help you. For other jobs you may need a year or more of additional studies to get the equivalent Finnish qualification.

Work permits

When looking for a job in Finland, at first it's a good idea to contact TE Services (TE-palvelut). In the picture, TE Services office located in Seinäjoki.

Citizens of the European Union, the Nordic countries, Switzerland and Liechtenstein can work freely in Finland, but for those from other countries acquiring a work permit means doing battle with the infamous Finnish Immigration Service (Maahanmuuttovirasto).

Generally, to get a work permit there needs to be a shortage of people in your profession (which is true in many fields, but has to be demonstrated). The right-wing government of 2023– (with the xenophobic True Finns as one of the two big coalition parties) intends to introduce minimum monthly wages for getting work-based visas (making the lowest paid jobs and many part-time jobs not count) and to withdraw the visas for people who become unemployed for more than three months.

Students permitted to study full-time in Finland are allowed work part-time (up to 25 hr/week, as long as they are able to succeed in their studies) or even full-time during holiday periods. If you have Finnish social security of some sort, check whether income above some level will affect it.



Finnish unionisation rate is high (70%), salaries are reasonably good even for simple jobs and employment laws are strict. One draw is the generous welfare state, especially significant for families with young children (or seeing forward to having children). Children mostly grow up in a safe and healthy environment, with green spaces available also in urban settings, good education – and generous parental leaves.

If you want to ensure your employers commitment to the fair terms of your collective agreement, it is recommended to join a trade union if you have already trained in a profession. In Finland, trade unions, like all associations and individuals, have freedom of association guaranteed by law and an established position both in most workplaces and in the institutional decision-making of society. Union membership fees are tax-deductible, and employers organized in employer organizations can collect them directly from the salaries of union members and account for them to the unions. In Finland, trade unions are mainly organized into three central organizations: SAK, STTK and Akava.

Other requirements


In addition to the permit to work and any position-specific formal qualifications (or dispensation, e.g. regarding language requirements), you will need a bank account (to get your wage) and an income tax card (verokortti/skattekort) from the taxation authorities. To get these you probably need a Finnish social security number. To deal electronically with the authorities (which you will want to do), you need digital ID codes, usually the same that you use to administer your bank account. Be prepared for the bureaucracy and possible Catch-22 situations.

Finland is known for the low intake of immigrants, compared to neighbouring countries. Still there are communities of foreigners from many countries in most university towns and in some more rural municipalities. In some trades professionals from abroad are quite common.

Finding work


If you are invited to a job interview, remember that modesty is a virtue in Finland. Finns appreciate facts and directness, so stay on topic and be truthful. Exaggeration and bragging is usually associated with lying.

For jobs, you might want to check out the Ministry of Labour. Most of the posted jobs are described in Finnish so you may need some help in translation, but some jobs are in English. Publicly posted positions are usually highly competitive, and usually require both a degree or a professional qualification and specific work experience. Thus, informal channels or assistance from an experienced local are valuable. Directly contacting possible employers can turn up jobs not published anywhere. Seasonal work at resorts is often available, if you have the right attitude and skills, and make the contact early enough.

Demanding a fee for getting a job for you is illegal. This includes certain expenses caused buy the employment procedure. If somebody wants money from you, there surely will be other problems as well; human trafficking is not unheard of.

Teaching English


As locals generally speak good English, a position teaching English generally requires special qualifications; foreigners are not recruited for basic teaching, but in some scenarios. Most positions for foreigners are in private language schools for children and students, on adult ESP courses, in preschools and in a few international schools. For teacher's jobs in ordinary schools you need a locally recognised teacher's exam. The pupils are usually motivated. A public school teacher's salary is €2,600–4,300/month (including summer holiday, but temporary teachers may not get that). In comprehensive school expect about 20 hr/week in class and about the same of preparation and other related work, with overtime in class paid for, overtime for the rest usually not. As a foreign visitor you are unlikely to get a full time job, so an average of €1,200–2,000/month may be realistic. This can include private lessons for €10–30/hr.

Placement agencies


A rapidly growing trend in Finland, especially for the younger generation, is to work for placement agencies. Although there has been a massive surge of public companies going private in the last ten years, this trend seems to be fuelled by the increased demand for more flexible work schedules as well as the freedom to work seasonally or sporadically – and the difficulty in getting regular jobs. Due to the nature of these types of agencies as well as the types of work they provide, it is common for them to hire non-Finns. Some agencies include Adecco, Staff Point, Manpower, Aaltovoima and Biisoni.

Summer jobs


For summer jobs, such as trainee positions for university students and summer jobs at hotels and cafés, the search begins very early, around January, and application periods end in late March. Last-minute positions opening in May are very few and quickly taken.

For Nordic youth (18–28/30) – or other EU/EEA citizens who know Swedish, Norwegian or Danish – there is the Nordjobb. Focusing on summer jobs as cultural exchange, it now offers also some other positions.

Restaurant work


Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of cooks, waiters and other café and restaurant staff, to the degree that knowing Finnish or Swedish isn't always required, especially in the summer season. While you are mostly competing with students seeking summer jobs, the "hygiene passport" may be needed (unless you have a recognised professional exam). The certificate test is often taken at the end of a weekend course; high school-level microbiology knowledge may be enough to take the test after a cursory reading of the course material; see an official example test.

Construction work and construction sites


Since the accession of former Eastern Bloc countries to the EU in the mid-2000s enabling free movement of labour, a large number of people mainly from the Baltic States but also from for example Poland and Romania are working at construction sites in Finland. At first, some employers took advantage of this paying foreign employers sub-par wages, no taxes, retirement and unemployment benefits as required by law, and indeed didn't even register the workers in their own papers. Then the authorities started clamping down on these practices.

These days, to work at a construction site you most definitely can't show up and start working right away. You need a personal tax number, which you can get from the Bureau of Taxation. Construction workers need a Valtti card with their photo, name, employer and this tax number. Your employer should take care of getting you the card. At many construction sites there is a gate where you need to display your card for getting in or out. You may also need other cards stating you've passed a work safety course, or for working with fire, electricity or close to traffic among other things. This depends on the construction site and what work you will perform.

The construction site management keeps a register of people coming and going, even if they're not actually doing construction work but, say, setting up furniture, equipment or stocking shelves in a shop in a mall that is due to open in a week but hasn't been declared finished. In addition you will need protective gear such as a hard hat and reflective vest for just accessing the site, and things like earmuffs, safety goggles, harnesses and safety boots for actual construction work. Again this is something your employer should take care of, for example if you're employed by a painting or plumbing company performing subcontractor work at a construction site.

Berry picking


One category of informal work is berry picking, either on a farm or picking wild berries. To get such a job you mostly have to convince the employer you are going to work hard, harder than most Finns are willing to. Picking wild berries and selling them is exempted from tax and you are free to do the business yourself (like the locals), but you would probably do so only if wanting a fun way to get pocket money. If coming for the income you will have somebody arrange everything (including accommodation and transport) and you will be independent only formally (taking the economic risk: no wage, just somebody buying the berries; you might be able to prove a de facto employment, but only with a good lawyer). Nowadays you should be guaranteed decent lodging for a decent price, a decent introduction (including info on your rights and what authorities you could contact in case of conflicts) and a minimum net income. Due to widespread abuse, the laws surrounding picking of wild berries are in a flux as of 2023; check the latest developments. Working on a farm you should be formally employed: still low-paid piece work, but employment law applies; some employers have tried to dodge even these obligations.

Wages and expenses


You can check expected salaries with the union for your field; they usually have defined minimum wages – there is no national minimum wage except for these, but €10/hr, corresponding to €1640/month, has been suggested. Salaries range from €1,200 to €6,500 per month (2010) for most full-time jobs, the median being €3,000–€3,500. Fees for mandatory insurance, social security and pensions are shared between employer and employee and cannot be selected or managed by the employee (there may also be voluntary negotiable benefits). Also income taxes of about 30% (increasing by income level) is deducted from the nominal salaries. Full-time work is nominally 36–40 hr/week, with overtime, night and Sunday work compensated for blue- and lower white-collar staff. The lunch break may or may not be included, depending on industry. Minors may not work overtime or in the night, those under 15 only reduced hours.

The bare essentials for living in Finland can be expected to cost about €600/month for a single person – plus rent and other expenses for your flat, any unexpected expenses and any touch of luxury, such as sometimes eating out. The suggested minimum wage of €1640/month comes closer to the truth about necessary expenses. If you need a car or consider living in Helsinki, do your maths.

On the bright side, school and healthcare for minors is mostly free (daycare is subsidised but still expensive), much culture is subsidised and thus not that expensive, and recreation in the woods or on the sea or lakes is in easy reach, mostly cheap or for free if you don't need services.

Employment terms


You should always ask for a written employment contract, usually referring to some specific collective agreement for most details. Oral contracts are legal, but no serious employer should object to giving you one in black and white – and as somebody less acquainted to the Finnish job market you are more likely to get in contact with those not playing by the rules (keep a copy somewhere safe if you don't trust your employer, or just in case). A concerning trend in the 2020s is contracting workers as entrepreneurs rather than employees, with much fewer rights, sometimes without telling you. An employment contract is nice evidence that you really were employed, although de facto employment counts, regardless of paperwork. Ask your union (or a local friend) to check the contract at least superficially if you have doubts, and ask them for help if you have been cheated – although they mostly serve their members, they have an interest in keeping a black market at bay.

Overtime and night-time work (and compensation for them), vacations, insurance, social benefits (including pension fees), termination of contracts etc. are strictly regulated. Unless specified in the contract, check the collective agreement (if applicable) or the relevant laws. You have the right to paid sick leave and often employer-paid basic health care. You should get paid vacations (except holidays) of 1½–2½ days/month (i.e. some 3–5 weeks/year), usually paid at the end of shorter employments.

You should regularly get documentation on your wage and associated social security fees and taxes paid by your employer. There may be some unofficial flexibility e.g. in working hours, but there should be corresponding flexibility when you need some time off – and you should be happy with any deviations from what was originally agreed on and stated in the contract. You should be free in your free time (standby time is paid in full or at some specified rate). Keep notes and save evidence about any unreasonable or unexpected demands; they might prove valuable if your contract gets illegitimately terminated. Feel free to discuss the arrangements with colleagues and to get outside advice – if there are hints on such being disallowed, it is time to get serious help. If you are afraid of being deported or your working permit being revoked, you might want to contact a group that helps paperless people – they should understand your situation and might be able to give advice on those risks. E.g. the Red Cross or the Church should be able to confidentially arrange contacts.

Cash payment is usually not possible (too much trouble for the employer), so you will need a Finnish bank account. Unfortunately the willingness of different banks to issue them to foreigners varies. You may also need a Finnish social security number (henkilötunnus) from the local maistraatti (register office); see the register office website for information. For construction sites, a tax number is needed; see Tax Administration's information on tax numbers.

See also

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