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Queen's University
 

Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies


Finland

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TOTAL SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1.5 6


1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and / or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 1

Evidence:

  • Commitments to multiculturalism in Finland are a rather recent development, and there have been significant changes over the past decade. In the national government’s 2003 program, it was asserted that “multiculturalism and the needs of different language groups will be taken into account” in the making of government policy (Government of Finland 2003). In its 2007 program, it noted that “Finland belongs to everyone, regardless of place of residence, life situation, mother tongue, or ethnic background”; the government also committed to promoting multiculturalism and bilingualism, particularly in the Greater Helsinki Area (Prime Minister’s Office 2007, 4). In June 2010, a new prime minister was sworn in after the sitting prime minister stepped down; both represented the same political party. An abbreviated government program was introduced in 2010, and it contains no specific references to multiculturalism. However, this may be more a function of context and timing than diminished commitment with the program having been released when the global financial crisis and economic recovery were most top-of-mind (Prime Minister’s Office 2010).
  • At the municipal level, the city of Helsinki took steps to develop policies related to immigration as early as 1991, when a committee report noted “The objective of the Helsinki City immigrant policy is to enable the transformation of the city into an international multicultural capital, where foreigners have equal rights to municipal services and can maintain their own language and culture, while having an opportunity to become integrated in the city life” (quoted in Mitchell and Heiskanen 2008, 30). This led to the creation of Caisa, a cultural support office, as well as a council on integration affairs (Mitchell and Heiskanen 2008). In 2008, the city opened an Immigration Division (City of Helsinki 2010). That being said, while Helsinki has been quite active, municipalities have considerable autonomy and thus, it is possible for them to adopt less multicultural approaches.
  • The 1999 Act on the Integration of Immigrants and the Reception of Asylum Seekers defines integration in Section 2(1) as “the personal development of immigrants, aimed at participation in work life and the functioning of society while preserving their language and culture” (emphasis added). The act places responsibility for integration in the hands of local authorities but stipulates that immigrants are entitled to integration support and an integration allowance.
  • Section 17 of Finland’s constitution came into force in 1995 and includes provisions related to language and cultural rights. While recognizing Swedish and Finnish as the country’s two official languages, the constitution notes that “the Sami, as an indigenous people, as well as the Roma and other groups, have the right to maintain and develop their own language and culture” (emphasis added). Although the constitution does not refer specifically to immigration minorities, the reference to “other groups” does leave the door open to such an interpretation, but it is not clear that this is the case.
  • Although Finland has had a Minister for Immigration Affairs since 2007, the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for immigrant integration. The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations is an agency of the Ministry of the Interior. It works to improve ethnic relations and equality, to promote cooperation on issues related to immigration, to provide advice and assistance on matters related to immigration policy, to promote immigrants’ organizational activities, and to provide information about immigration and diversity (Ministry of the Interior 2010). Up to 29 members, along with a chairperson and vice-chair, are appointed by the government for three-year terms; members represent provincial offices, major municipalities, employment and economic development centres, NGOs, business, industry, political parties, and immigrants and ethnic minorities (Ministry of the Interior 2010).


2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 1

Evidence:

  • National curriculum guidelines are set by the Finnish National Board of Education, which reports to the Ministry of Education. While municipalities may adopt school-specific policies, the majority of students follow a roughly equivalent program of instruction (Holm and Londen 2010). In the national curriculum guidelines, “the endorsement of multiculturalism” is identified as one of the underlying values of basic education, along with equality, democracy, human rights, diversity and the preservation of the environment (see Holm and Londen 2010). The curriculum is to be non-denominational and politically neutral and should “take into account the diversification of Finnish culture through the arrival of people from other cultures” (quoted in Holm and Londen 2010, 110). It is noted that the recognition of cultural diversity “helps to support the formation of the pupil’s own cultural identity, and his or her part in Finnish society and a globalizing world. The instruction also helps to promote tolerance and intercultural understanding” (quoted in Holm and Londen 2010, 110).
  • One of the seven cross-curricular themes identified in the guidelines is “cultural identity and internationalism.” This type of instruction is intended “to help the student understand the essence of Finnish and European cultural identities, discover his or her own cultural identity and to develop capabilities for cross-cultural interaction and internationalism” (quoted in Holm and Londen 2010, 111). Holm and Londen (2010) argue that this commitment sets the foundation for progressive multicultural education.
  • This seems to be a significant development since the index’s last compilation when it was suggested that up until at least 1996, Finland had no comprehensive multicultural education programs.


3. The inclusion of ethnic representation / sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0.5 1

Evidence:

  • The Act on Television and Radio Operations (1998) outlines the conditions for granting media licences. Section 10 provides that “when declaring licences open for application and granting them, the licensing authority shall…aim at promoting freedom of speech as well as safeguarding the diversity of the provision of programs as well as the needs of special groups of the public.”
  • In addition, the Act on Yleisradio OY (1993) governs the operations of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). It stipulates that the YLE must “support democracy by providing a wide variety of information, opinions and debates on social issues, also for minorities and special groups…treat in its broadcasting Finnish- and Swedish-speaking citizens on equal grounds and to produce services in the Sami and Romany languages and in sign language as well as, where applicable, for other language groups in the country…[and] support tolerance and multiculturalism and provide programming for minority and special groups.”
  • These provisions are fairly recent developments with amendments having been largely enacted post-2000, although protections for the Sami and Swedish-speaking minorities are long-standing.


4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases)

   Little evidence found, although no indication that there have yet been significant challenges or calls for exemptions.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • In early 2010, there were media reports of one Finnish town, Raasepori, issuing guidelines that prohibited the wearing of religious symbols and headgear in its schools. At the time, it was noted by the Finnish National Broadcasting Company that “the restriction is not based in Finnish law and according to many critics is unconstitutional” (YLE 2010). Raasepori was said to be the only school district to have imposed such restrictions, which were quietly removed following public outcry.
  • No other evidence of dress code exemptions could be found, but it appears that Finland has not yet encountered any significant challenges or public backlash related to headscarves, turbans or other religious clothing.


5. Allows dual citizenship

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 1

Evidence:

  • A new citizenship law was passed in 2003. The Nationality Act allows for the holding of multiple citizenships which, until that point, had not been possible (Finnish Immigration Service 2010).


6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities

   Yes.

TOTAL SCORES
Year 1980 2000 2010
Score 0 0 1

Evidence:

  • In its 2001 Action Plan to Combat Ethnic Discrimination and Racism, the government noted the importance of supporting “the functioning requirements” of immigrant and ethnic minority organizations. It committed the Ministry of Education to developing a “support system for immigrant and ethnic minority organisations, culture and publication activities and the coverage of this system.” It said further that “the Ministry of Education will develop incentives and added resources for co-operation between various populations groups” (Ministry of Labour 2001, 13).
  • In this vein, the Ministry of Education and Culture provides grants to ethnic minority organizations that support multiculturalism, anti-racism, and the integration of immigrants through arts and culture. The description of the granting programs notes, in particular, that “one purpose of the subsidies is to support cultural activities organised by immigrants and national minorities which foster cultural minorities' own identities or which promote communication between cultural minorities and majority culture” (Ministry of Education and Culture 2010). These grants have supported linguistic and cultural minorities since the 1990s, and in 2009, more than 70 grants totalling €400,000 were distributed to immigration and ethnic minority organizations (Ministry of Education and Culture 2010). Local authorities also provide some funding to ethnic minority organizations.
  • In 2009, the Arts Council established a sub-committee for multiculturalism which provides grants to immigrant and minority artists (Arts Council of Finland 2010).


7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction

   Yes.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 1 1

Evidence:

  • Bilingual education has been available for quite some time. The Basic Education Act allows for instruction to be carried out exclusively or in part in the mother tongue of immigrant and minority students. This is arranged by the local authority in the municipality in which the student resides (Finnish National Board of Education 2010), although as Holm and Londen (2010) point out, nothing in the curriculum obligates municipalities to provide mother-tongue instruction. Nonetheless, municipalities are provided with a state subsidy to cover two and a half hours of instruction per week if it arranges a language class with at least four students (Holm and Londen 2010). At present, mother-tongue language classes are available in about 50 different languages (ibid.).
  • In discussing the education of cultural minorities, the Finnish National Board of Education (2010) commits “to prepare immigrants for integration into the Finnish education system and society, to support their cultural identity and to provide them with as well-functioning bilingualism as possible so that, in addition to Finnish (or Swedish), they will also have a command of their own native language.” Bilingual instruction is partly a tool to facilitate the learning of Finnish, but immigrants and minorities are nonetheless encouraged to retain their own mother tongue (ibid.).


8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups

   No.

SCORES
Year: 1980 2000 2010
Score: 0 0 0

Evidence:

  • While there is an Ombudsman for Minorities and various protections against racism and discrimination, no evidence of a comprehensive affirmative action policy for ethnic minorities could be found (see Ombudsman for Minorities 2010).
  • Nonetheless, in its Action Plan to Combat Ethnic Discrimination and Racism, the government noted that “ministries’ personnel policy programmes and information and training plans must include viewpoints related to ethnic diversity, equality and multiculturalism. In addition to this, the importance of ethnic relations when attending to official duties must be emphasised in personnel policy programmes. When recruiting staff to ministries responsible for immigration policy and ethnic relations and their subordinate administration, knowledge of particular cultural characteristics of ethnic groups and the importance of multicultural skills and tolerant attitudes must be emphasised as a selection criterion” (Ministry of Labour 2001, 11). While this is an affirmation of the importance of diversity in the workplace, it does not amount to a policy of affirmative action.
  • At the same time, there is a quota system designating a set number of places to Swedish-speaking ministries in specified university programs, including law and medicine (Alvarez 2005), as well as programs that promote gender equality and allow for the preferential hiring of women in occupations where they have been traditionally under-represented (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2006). Quotas have also been established to ensure government committees, advisory boards and working groups comprise at least 40 percent women (Ombudsman for Equality 2010).

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