New Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration would speed up integration and employment of immigrants – Consultation round begins
The objective of the legislative proposal is also to promote social inclusion, health and wellbeing of immigrants, to increase equality and to strengthen good relations between population groups. According to the proposal to be sent out for comments, services promoting integration would be organised as part of the municipal integration programme and other services.
The proposal aims to enhance the integration and employment of immigrants by developing early-stage integration services, by taking immigrants’ service needs into better consideration and by improving the availability of guidance and counselling. The new act would repeal the old act with the same name.
The proposal would increase the municipal responsibility for promoting integration. According to the legislative proposal, services promoting integration would be organised as part of a new municipal integration programme and other services. The latter refer to services provided by municipalities, wellbeing services counties and Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) as well as the activities of organisations, associations or communities.
“We want to improve the inclusion of immigrants and create paths to working life. Effective integration that takes different service needs into account plays a key role in this,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
Integration programme to ease transitions to employment and education
A municipal integration programme would be a package that includes an assessment of service needs related to skills and integration, an integration plan, multilingual orientation to Finnish society, education, other services, guidance and information to promote integration and employment as well as further guidance at the end of the programme. Services that meet the immigrant’s individual service needs would be agreed on in the integration plan.
The proposal would make the integration plans more goal-oriented and increase the role of working life in promotion of integration. In addition, the proposed act would shorten the maximum duration of the integration plan and make further guidance to working life or employment and education services more effective.
More immigrants to receive services
TE services produce integration plans for immigrants who are unemployed jobseekers and municipalities produce such plans for immigrants who receive social assistance on a non-temporary basis. An integration plan may also be drawn up for other immigrants if they need it based on an assessment.
According to the proposal, municipalities would assess the immigrant’s need for skills and integration services and prepare an integration plan for both unemployed jobseekers and immigrants outside the labour force. Attempt would be made for the assessment to also apply to those receiving international protection, those receiving child home care allowance and victims of human trafficking. If necessary, the assessments would be carried out in cooperation between the municipality and the wellbeing services county.
“The aim is to reach immigrants in need of services right at the first stage of immigration and to include immigrants outside the labour force in the services more extensively as well. For example, providing services to parents caring for their children at home will promote the integration of the whole family,” Haatainen says.
Language studies to include a final exam
Integration training, which is included in the integration programme, would include a final Finnish or Swedish exam. Support for self-motivated studies would be amended so that the opportunities of immigrants to develop their skills would not suffer even if the maximum duration of the integration plan were shortened.
Improving the identification of skills and harmonising integration training more closely with other employment and education services would make the educational and employment paths of immigrants more efficient.
More efficient coordination of services
The proposal would also contain provisions on the authorities’ duties and cooperation in the promotion of integration. Promoting integration is part of national, regional and local administration. Cooperation between the authorities is central to promotion of integration.
The proposed Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration would clarify the process of assigning beneficiaries of international protection to municipalities and the responsibilities of different authorities at the early stages of receiving quota refugees. It is proposed that accommodation of unaccompanied minors in group homes would become an activity carried out in accordance with the Social Welfare Act.
The overall reform proposes that the funding system under which the central government provides compensation to municipalities and, in future, wellbeing services counties be simplified. Additional funding is proposed for municipalities as a result of the new duties.
Proposal’s relation to other statute drafting
The new act would clarify the responsibilities of the authorities, taking into account the policies of the Government report on the need to reform integration promotion (VNS 6/2021) and the changes resulting from the establishment of wellbeing services counties as well as the reform of employment services. The employment services reform and the reform of the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration would make the integration and provision of services more efficient, as municipalities would have access to services promoting integration, skills development and employment.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has also prepared a government proposal for acts amending the Act on Multisectoral Joint Services Promoting Employment and the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration, which would respond to the changes caused by the establishment of wellbeing services counties until the comprehensive reform of the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration enters into force.
Stakeholder events and consultation round
TEAMS events on the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration will be organised for interest groups on 2 May (in Finnish) and on 17 May (in Swedish). The events will provide information on the content of the legislative proposal. The public will also have an opportunity to ask questions.
The proposal will be circulated for comments on 2 May – 10 June 2022. The acts are scheduled to enter into force at the end of 2024 at the same time as the employment services reform.
Iiris Niinikoski, Special Adviser, tel. +358 295 047372
Mira Karppanen, Chief Specialist, tel. +358 295 047293
Sari Haavisto, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 047154
Paula Karjalainen, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 047117