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Wild berry pickers from abroad to mainly enter Finland as seasonal workers in an employment relationship

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 15.5.2024 11.40
Press release

The ministerial working group on employment and entrepreneurship decided on 15 May 2024 to prepare amendments to the Seasonal Workers Act and Decree. The primary route for wild berry picking will be seasonal work in an employment relationship. The aim is that the changes will enter into force for the harvest season of 2025.

In Finland, the picking of wild berries is strongly dependent on foreign labour, especially pickers invited and recruited from Thailand. Until 2023, pickers came to Finland with a Schengen tourist visa, which allowed them to stay and pick berries in Finland for a maximum of three months. There have been problems in the wild berry sector related to the working conditions and earnings of foreign pickers as well as suspicions and charges of human trafficking.

In future, picking will not be equated with tourism. Instead, companies must employ pickers in a contractual employment relationship to enable them to enter the country. In other words, wild berry pickers will enter Finland under the same conditions as those picking garden berries, for example. The status of foreign pickers will be improved by amending the Seasonal Workers Act and Decree.

“A sustainable solution is needed for the entry of wild berry pickers. A contractual employment relationship gives pickers the benefits of such a relationship and the security of a minimum wage. It also makes it easier to monitor that these rights are realised. This is a significant change for the berry sector and it will create challenges too. Companies need to be capable of renewal,” says Minister of Employment Arto Satonen

Preparation to be launched instantly

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment will urgently start preparing a proposal so that the new regulation could enter into force for the harvest season of 2025. The government proposal should be submitted in late 2024. Stakeholders will be consulted during the public consultation. Improving the status of berry pickers is part of the Action plan for combating and preventing work-related exploitation.

A study by Pellervo Economic Research and the University of Vaasa supported the decision-making on seasonal work carried out in a contractual employment relationship. The study considered a contractual employment relationship a more realistic option than self-employment, because pickers would supposedly not be able to meet the statutory obligations of self-employment due to poor language skills, for example. 

New entry conditions already this summer

Due to the problems in the berry sector, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs suspended the reception of visa applications of wild berry pickers from Thailand in March 2024. This means that pickers can no longer enter Finland with a tourist visa. During the harvest season of 2024, berry companies can recruit pickers from abroad for work carried out in a contractual employment relationship. Accordingly, they would come to Finland with a residence permit for an employed person. The entry into Finland as a seasonal worker, which will be prepared for the 2025 harvest season, will be a less strenuous procedure than a residence permit for an employed person and will have a lower permit fee.

The changes currently under preparation will not affect the right of Finnish people or persons residing in Finland for a reason other than berry picking to pick wild berries and sell them to a party of their choice. Foreign berry pickers may continue to enter Finland as self-employed persons, if they meet the requirements for a residence permit for entrepreneurs.

Veera Svahn, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 295 047 321 (questions to the Minister of Employment)
Ariann Grandell, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 047 236