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Tiina Sotkasiira, University of Eastern Finland.


Topic: Differential inclusion of migrants in rural labour market in North Karelia, Finland


In the context of demographic decline, the rural regions particularly in the eastern and northern parts of Finland, which arguably do not receive sufficient ‘spontaneous’ flows of in-migration, have found themselves in competition with urban centers for foreign born workers and residents. In principle, all key organisations, working in rural and regional development in Finland, are in an agreement that more immigrant labour is needed in rural regions to fill gaps that native labour will not respond to. This concern has been highlighted also in a number of policy documents published in past years.


This paper, which is based on my long-term (2013-2018) ethnographic study of international migration in the region of North Karelia, argues that the aims of the such regional development policies and the actual immigration policies are fundamentally at odds with each other. From this ethnographic perspective, which looks at the issue at hand through the everyday experiences of migrants living in North Karelia, the lack of labour flow from abroad is difficult to come to terms with considering how difficult they themselves find to access labour market. Furthermore, it appears that the endeavors to ‘draft’ migrants into regions that suffer from depopulation sit uncomfortably alongside migration schemes intended to recruit and create a ‘flexible’ workforce as well as policies that protect the local (blue-collar) workers by limiting foreign workers to the positions that cannot be filled by locals.


The paper applies the concept of differential inclusion to explore the selective involvement of migrants in the sphere of work in the region of North Karelia. It contributes to the discussion on differential inclusion by providing an empirically grounded analysis of the role of immigration law, namely the role of Finnish residence permit system, in differentiating non-citizens’ rights and immigration trajectories regarding their employment and settlement in rural Finland. It also highlights, how various intersecting categories, such as nationality (EU vs. non-EU), education, class and family background, differentiate the position and rights of non-citizens in this particular context. The analysis of differential inclusion, which in this case takes place through laying out specific conditions for obtaining a work-based residence permit, are of particular relevance to those rural and peripheral regions that are struggling to attract new labour force in the first place.


The paper is based on the collaborative work of the author with Dr. Ray Silvius and Dr. Jill Bucklaschuk on migrant settlement in rural Canada and Finland.

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