Illegal Worker Numbers on the Rise

Employers and employees face fines and possible deportation if they are caught working illegally.

File picture of construction worker / Credit: Pixabay

The number of people working in Finland illegally has increased over the last few years, according to southern Finland’s Regional Administration Agency.

The problem affects mostly the construction industry, but also restaurant and cleaning industries too, often through subcontractors.

Illegal work can be defined as someone who is either in Finland without the necessary work or residence permits; or someone who is living in Finland with a specific type of permit who breaks the conditions.

Citizens of EU countries do not need a work permit, and it is usually people from outside the EU who work illegally in Finland.

According to a recent study by the European Migration Network EMN – of which Finland’s Migri is a member – there have been no signs that people denied asylum in Finland would work illegally in any significant numbers. The study reveals that it is more common for people who are legally resident in Finland to work illegally.

Third Country Workers

So where do the illegal workers come from? Information varies between different authorities who deal with the subject. But Russia, and countries in Asia and Africa feature prominently.

“At construction sites, people who come to Finland are often working with a residence permit from another EU country. And this usually means the person has a residence permit in Estonia, and comes to Finland to work” says Katja-Pia Jenu at the Southern Finland Regional Administration Agency.

In essence, a person with a residence permit in an EU country can work for three months as a guest worker in another EU country.

“They still have to work for a company registered in the country where they have a residence permit. Most often, problems arise if they work for more than three months in Finland, or start working for a Finnish company” explains Jenu.

Police Statistics

The increase in illegal workers is reflected too in police statistics. Police report cases where inspections reveal someone intentionally performs paid work without permission.

During the past three years, Finnish police estimate that the number of illegal workers has increased steadily, but by the very nature of illegal employment, there are no comprehensive statistics available.

“The police oversee this in connection with other agencies, like the Border Guard and Regional Administration” says Sini Virtanen at the Central Criminal Police.

“Our work is based on tips and observations, and often the Regional Administration gets many tips” says Virtanen.

The Regional Administrative Authority usually receives its tips from other authorities, Border Guard and the public, or from other employees and employers too.

“We get hundreds of tips each year” says Katja-Pia Jenu.

In most cases, the person who works illegally and their employers receive fines when they get caught. If the person is illegally in the country, they may also be detained or expelled.

Most illegal work in Southern Finland

According to the Regional Administration Agency, most of the illegal work that they learn about is happening in southern Finland, and particularly in the capital city region.

Last year, they made 161 control checks throughout the country where illegal workers were found.

“There are many immigrants in the metropolitan area and it is likely easier to get jobs and network there,” says Jenu.

Fast Facts:

  • In Finland last year, 166 employers were convicted for using illegal foreign labour;
  • In 2015, 149 employers were convicted;
  • In 2014, 175 employers were convicted;
  • An employer is obliged to investigate whether an employee has a work permit;
  • So far in 2017, more than 160 people have been arrested for working illegally.