Finland seems like an attractive destination on paper, scoring high in international comparisons for quality of life, freedom and gender equality, with little corruption, crime and pollution. AFP/Vesa Moilanen
HELSINKI - Repeatedly dubbed the happiest nation on the planet with world-beating living standards, Finland should be deluged by people wanting to relocate, but in fact it faces an acute workforce shortage.
"It's now widely acknowledged that we need a spectacular number of people to come to the country," recruiter Saku Tihverainen from agency Talented Solutions told AFP.
Workers are needed "to help cover the cost of the greying generation", the recruiter explained.
While many Western countries are battling weak population growth, few are feeling the effects as sharply as Finland.
With 39.2 over-65s per 100 working-age people, it is second only to Japan in the extent of its ageing population, according to the UN, which forecasts that by 2030 the "old age dependency ratio" will rise to 47.5.
The government has warned that the nation of 5.5 million needs to practically double immigration levels to 20,000-30,000 a year to maintain public services and plug a looming pensions deficit.
Finland might seem like an attractive destination on paper, scoring high in international comparisons for quality of life, freedom and gender equality, with little corruption, crime and pollution.
Faced with the OECD's largest skilled worker shortage, some Finnish startups are creating a joint careers site to better bag overseas talent.
"As you can imagine, this is a slow burner," Shaun Rudden from food delivery firm Wolt said in an email, adding that "We try to make the relocation process as painless as possible."
- Systemic problem -
Startups "have told me that they can get anyone in the world to come and work for them in Helsinki, as long as he or she is single," the capital's mayor, Jan Vapaavuori, said to AFP.
But "their spouses still have huge problems getting a decent job."
Many foreigners complain of a widespread reluctance to recognise overseas experience or qualifications, as well as prejudice against non-Finnish applicants.
For Helsinki mayor Jan Vaaavuori, four years of Finland being voted the world's happiest country in a UN ranking have "not yet helped as much as we could have hoped."
"If you stop someone in the street in Paris or London or Rome or New York, I still don't think most people know about us," he mused.
Mayor Vapaavuori, whose four-year term ends this summer, has turned increasingly to international PR firms to help raise the city's profile.
He is optimistic about Finland's ability to attract talent from Asia in future, and believes people's priorities will have changed once international mobility ramps up again post-coronavirus.