International talents: Excessive Finnish language requirements are the biggest career obstacle in Finland


The Confederation of Finnish Industries EK conducted a survey on foreign business leaders and other talents on what it is like to live and build a career in Finland. Excessively high requirements regarding proficiency in the Finnish language at workplaces were perceived as by far the biggest problem when finding employment and building a career in Finland – either from personal experience or the experience of an accompanying spouse. On a positive note, the safety of the living environment, high quality of education and Finnish working culture were considered as Finland’s strengths.

Nearly 70 international business executives, top experts and students living in Finland responded to the survey in November 2021. The survey was conducted in cooperation with EK’s International Business Club network, consisting of prominent representatives of the expat business community in Finland.

 Survey results in brief:

  • When considering moving to Finland, the biggest difficulty is finding employment and building a career – from both personal experience and that of an accompanying spouse. Finnish working culture, on the other hand, is seen as one of Finland’s greatest assets in attracting foreign talents.
  • As a place to live, Finland’s weaknesses are related to its high living costs. Many also found it challenging to access professional and social networks. The safety of the living environment and the balance between work and leisure were perceived as Finland’s strengths.
  • By far the most significant barrier to the employment of foreign experts in Finland is the overly strict requirements for Finnish language proficiency. This was seen as a major weakness when evaluating Finnish working life. Excessively high language requirements were also mentioned frequently in the open-ended responses.
  • The high quality of education and trust in public authorities are seen as strengths in working life and when studying that are typical of Finland.

Miriam Holstein: “Let’s be more flexible about the Finnish language requirements”

“Global competition for the best talents is accelerating continuously. We must employ new means to attract talents and ensure that these people also stay in Finland,” underlines Miriam Holstein (Bayer Nordic, Turku), chair of EK’s International Business Club.

“One practical improvement lies in the hands of Finnish companies themselves: to reconsider and adjust the level of proficiency in the Finnish language required by a work applicant with an international background. Even though it is always recommended to learn the language of the country you are living in, we strongly recommend that companies evaluate on a case-by-case basis, whether Finnish language skills are truly necessary in all work tasks and positions.”

International Business Club (IBC)

In 2019, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK established the International Business Club (IBC) network for foreign business leaders and top talents living in Finland. The purpose of the network is to improve the dialogue between the international business community and Finnish decision-makers and to promote Finland as an attractive destination for foreign companies, talents, and investments.

Survey results in infographics Press release in Finnish