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
- Commitments to multiculturalism in Finland are a rather recent development. Given that immigration did not increase markedly until the late 1980s, and was at that time largely characterized by the return of economic emigrants (OECD 2017), Finland did not experience much of the early pressures to develop integration policies that other Scandinavian states did amidst higher rates of migration in the 1970s and 1980s (see Saukkonen 2013a).
- However, more recent advances in multicultural policies have placed Finland at the forefront of multicultural policy development within the region. 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 2009, the Ministry of Education and Culture also ascribed that “Finland is a multicultural country with a strong cultural identity. Cultural diversity springs from a wealth of diverse regions, languages, indigenous cultures and cultural heritage – diverse cultural expressions and mores. (…) Immigrants are a new creativity and talent resource, and the positive effects of multiculturalism add to the vitality of Finnish culture” (Ministry of Education and Culture 2009b, 16).
- Municipalities play a critical role in Finland’s integration policy, responsible for assisting with basic provisions and overseeing social assistance (OECD 2017). 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). 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.
- The Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO) works to improve ethnic relations and equality, to promote cooperation on issues relatedto 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 Justice 2020). 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 Justice 2020; see also OECD 2017).
2. THE ADOPTION OF MULTICULTURALISM IN SCHOOL CURRICULUM
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- An emphasis on tolerance of different cultures within the education system started to appear in the 1990s. Multiculturalism showed up in the Finnish education curriculum in 2003 (Holm and Londen 2010, 110). The 2003- 2007 Department Plan for Education notes the growing importance of multiculturalism within Finnish society, and points to the need to build tolerance of diversity within the education system (Ministry of Education 2003, 16-27).
- 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 ofinstruction 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.
- More recent updates to the national curriculum seem to have cemented the foundation of multicultural education in Finland. As Zilliacus et al. (2017) explain, the 2014 revisions to the curriculum have enhanced the definition of diversity. As they suggest, “Now diversity is not seen as an outside force, but as an integral part of the school and every student. Compared to the 2004 curriculum, which expresses the wish to embrace multiculturalism, multiculturalism has become part of the community, the school and every student” (Zilliacus et al. 2017, 238). Zilliacus et al. (2017) note that the 2014 curriculum reinforces the ethical importance of multicultural education and its role in developing socially responsible students and communities.
3. THE INCLUSION OF ETHNIC REPRESENTATION/SENSITIVITY IN THE MANDATE OF PUBLIC MEDIA OR MEDIA LICENSING
- The Act on Television and Radio Operations (1998) outlines the conditions for granting media licences. Section 10 provides that “when declaring licenses 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. The Act governing Yleisradio was amended in 2005 to include support for multiculturalism and cultural interaction in the public broadcaster’s mandate (Osterlund-Karinkanta 2006). It specifically acknowledges national minorities and immigrants, and policymakers involved in the YLE amendments argued that they wanted to serve as a leader within the European Broadcasting Unit on issues related to immigrants and minorities (Horsti and Hultén 2011).
4. EXEMPTIONS FROM DRESS CODES (EITHER BY STATUTE OR COURT CASES)
- Exemptions from dress codes are a more recent provision in Finland. In 2014, Finland passed the Non-Discrimination Act (Yhdenvertaisuuslaki 1325/2014). Section 8 of the Act notes that: “No one may be discriminated against on the basis of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics. Discrimination is prohibited, regardless of whether it is based on a fact or assumption concerning the person him/herself or another… In addition to direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, denial of reasonable accommodation as well as an instruction or order to discriminate constitute discrimination as referred to in this Act” (Ministry of Justice Finland 2014).
- 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.
- In the past decade, there have been select cases brought to Finnish courts that deal with the tensions of religious accommodations and workplace attire. Specifically, in 2014, a Muslim woman was fired from her job at a clothing store for wearing a headscarf, which the Helsinki District Court ruled as a case of discrimination (YLE 2014a; Open Society Justice Initiative 2018). In the same year, a Sikh bus driver also won the right to wear a turban at work (YLE 2014a, 2014b).
- While these cases represented important advancements in securing rights for religious accommodation, the Finnish Police Training College remains resistant to allowing Muslim women to wear headscarves on the job. Despite the fact that female Muslim officers hold the right to wear a headscarf on the job in neighbouring Sweden, the National Police Board in Finland argued that the wearing of a headscarf posed a health and safety risk, and that it “could cause aggression or a negative attitude in people the police come into contact with… could lead to other requests for religion-related rights, for example the right to break for prayer … [and] could risk the police reputation for impartiality and trustworthiness” (YLE 2014c).
- Despite debates across much of Europe about the banning of face coverings in recent years, Finland has not prohibited veils at the national or local level. The far-right Finns Party proposed legislation pertaining to face coverings in 2013 and 2016 but were unsuccessful in mobilizing the bill and amending the Criminal Code (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018; YLE 2013). Some debate emerged in 2016 about employees in the Helsinki education sector wearing the niqab to work but administrators determined that employees were free to choose what they wore on the job (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018; Bayrakli and Hafez 2017).
- Restrictions pertaining to workplace uniforms in Finland only apply to hygiene and safety concerns (Bayrakli and Hafez 2017; Open Society Justice Initiative 2018). Despite the 2017 decision from the European Court of Justice that allows employers to prohibit headscarves in the workplace, legal experts suggest that the Non-Discrimination Act and case law to date would likely protect Muslim women’s rights when it comes to workplace attire (Open Society Justice Initiative 2018).
5. ALLOWS DUAL CITIZENSHIP
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- 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 2020).
6. THE FUNDING OF ETHNIC GROUP ORGANIZATIONS OR ACTIVITIES
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- 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, culture, identity, and language. The description of the granting programs notes, inparticular, 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 2009a). These grants have supported linguistic and cultural minorities since the 1990s, and in 2011, more than 70 grants totaling €650,000 were distributed to immigration and ethnic minority organizations (Saukkonen 2013b). Some of the largest grant receivers include the Multicultural Arts Centre Kassandra, a Russian cultural organization, and the Finnish Roma Association (Saukkonen 2013b). Local authorities also provide some funding to ethnic minority organizations (Saukkonen 2013b).
- In 2008, the Ministry of Education and Culture planned a number of events that helped to recognise the 2008 EU Year of Intercultural dialogue (Mitchell and Kanerva 2013).
- In 2009, the Arts Council established a sub-committee for multiculturalism, which provides grants to immigrant and minority artists (Arts Council of Finland 2010). In 2013, the Arts Council was replaced by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) and they continue to provide grants for multicultural projects and events (UNESCO 2016). The National Council for Diversity in the Arts is an expert body of the Arts Promotion Centre Finland that offers and decides on grants which promote cultural diversity in Finland (Taike 2020). According to the 2015-2020 Strategy of the Arts Promotion Centre, the promotion of “the diversity of the arts and intercultural dialogue” is one of their four core tenets (UNESCO 2016).
7. THE FUNDING OF BILINGUAL EDUCATION OR MOTHER TONGUE INSTRUCTION
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- 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, 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). A 1999 amendment to the Act allowed students to receive funding for instruction in their native language (Basic Education Act 2010).
- At present, mother tongue language classes are available in about 50 different languages (Holm and Londen 2010; Mustaparta 2008). The most frequently taught include Russian, Somali, Albanian, Arabic and Vietnamese (Mustaparta 2008). Approximately two-thirds of immigrant students receive mother tongue instruction as part of their education.
- The 2007 Education and Research Plan notes the importance of providing education in immigrants’ mother tongue as well as in Finnish or Swedish (Ministry of Education Finland 2007, 47). Multilingualism is common among Finnish students, and by secondary school, more than half the students have studied at least three languages (Mustaparta 2008).
- In discussing the education of cultural minorities, the Finnish National Board of Education 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 they will have a command of their own native language in addition to Finnish (or Swedish)” (Eurydice 2020b). 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.).
- In addition to mother tongue instruction and language support in schools, in 1995, the Ministry of Education also declared that the Helsinki City Library would become a multilingual library to “enhance library services for foreigners, to establish connections with domestic and international organizations, to provide information and guidance, and to purchase materials in rare languages for interlibrary use by ethnic minorities in Finland” (Saukkonen 2013b). The government invested €130,000 into acquiring books in more than 60 languages that are available across the entire country, including Chinese, Arabic, Persian, and Somali (Saukkonen 2013b).
8. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR DISADVANTAGED IMMIGRANT GROUPS
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- While there is a Non-Discrimination Ombudsman that is intended to “advance equality in Finland and to prevent and tackle discrimination”, no evidence of a comprehensive affirmative action policy for ethnic minorities could be found (Equinet Europe 2019b).
- 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). The Act on Equality Between Men and Women also established quotas to ensure government committees, advisory boards, and working groups comprise at least 40 percent women (Section 4a 232/2005).