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Poor accommodation of foreign workers often reveal even other exploitation – authorities must work closer together to prevent abuse

Ministry of Economic Affairs and EmploymentMinistry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 16.6.2022 12.01 | Published in English on 17.6.2022 at 11.10
Press release
Marjanpoimijan käsi ja muutama puolukka.

Cooperation and exchange of information between the authorities are keys to preventing the exploitation of foreign workers. A working group proposes national coordination measures and the establishment of regional multi-authority working groups to enhance cooperation between the authorities. 

The Government aims to prevent the exploitation of foreign labour. For this reason, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health appointed a working group for finding ways to prevent exploitation associated with accommodation. The working group found that employers and authorities need more training and that foreign workers need more information about their rights.

Lack of affordable housing aggravates the situation

Lack of affordable housing makes it difficult to arrange accommodation for foreign workers. It is the reason why many foreign workers live in cramped conditions or sleep at their workplace. Housing and accommodation arrangements not only affect foreign workers themselves but even any family members living with them. Foreign workers and their family members add to the need for municipal basic and support services, too.

“It is highly important that we prevent the exploitation of labour in all its forms now that the Finnish labour market is becoming more international. All workers must have access to decent housing and any services they need whether they come here alone or with their families,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.

The risk of exploitation, whether it is related to accommodation or not, is higher when foreign workers have poor language skills and when they do not know Finnish society or their rights.  Foreign workers may find it difficult to report exploitation if they are dependent on their exploiter. The low risk of getting caught may tempt people to engage in illegal behaviour.

Poor awareness of minimum conditions for housing

While housing-related exploitation is a form of trafficking in human beings, the sentences on human trafficking have addressed housing conditions only occasionally and in a general manner. 

There is poor awareness of the minimum conditions for facilities used for housing, and facilities that are not approved for housing or accommodation purposes are usually supervised only on a case-by-case basis. Supervision and cooperation between authorities would be more effective if the authorities knew better the legislation on domestic privacy and on exchange of information. 

“Exploitation of labour and trafficking in human beings go often undetected, and the authorities must work together to identify and prevent such crimes. It means, too, that all flaws in the housing conditions of foreign workers must be redressed,” says Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen. 

Poor housing often a sign of even other exploitation 

Insufficient housing conditions for foreign workers may indicate the presence of even other work-related exploitation and trafficking in human beings. While the current legislation already allows the authorities to enhance the supervision of housing and accommodation for foreign workers and to step up the prevention of exploitation, the working group identified a need for new measures, too. 

Employers and authorities need guidelines and training on how to identify human trafficking and exploitation of labour. Foreign workers need more information and instructions on decent accommodation, on legal remedies available to them and on whom to contact if they need help and advice. 

In addition, the working group highlights the need to link housing policy more closely to labour immigration to make the amount of affordable housing and the need for labour meet. 

Active work to prevent the exploitation of foreign labour

The current Government has introduced a number of measures to prevent the exploitation of foreign labour. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has prepared amendments to the Aliens Act and the Seasonal Workers Act that improve the status of foreign workers. The brochure “Working in Finland” has been published in 24 languages, and a multilingual advisory service tells foreign workers about Finnish employment conditions and where they can get help if they need it. There is more cooperation and information exchange among the authorities. 
The measures proposed by the working group should be implemented by 2023 at the latest. The working group will continue its work as a network, and it will be working together with the authorities to help implement the recommendations. The effectiveness of the measures will be checked by the working group monitoring progress with the Action Plan against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Iiris Niinikoski, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 295 047 372
Olli Sorainen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 048 022
Juho Orjala, Special Adviser to the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 295 163 424
Tarja Nupponen, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. +358 295 163 485

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