Comprehensive reform of Integration Act will speed up integration and employment of immigrants
The comprehensive reform of the Integration Act, which will enter into force in 2025, will improve integration and strengthen the inclusion of immigrants in society. The reform will facilitate the path of immigrants towards employment and improve the access of immigrant women and others outside the labour force to services.
The comprehensive reform of the Act on the Promotion of Immigrant Integration (Integration Act) supports the integration and employment of immigrants by developing early-stage integration services. It also seeks to promote equality, wellbeing and good relations between population groups. The reform will enter into force on 1 January 2025.
The President of the Republic is expected to approve the bill on Friday, 14 April 2023.
“Smoother integration supports inclusion and employment of immigrants. Employment also opens other doors to the Finnish society. The reform’s aim is to reach immigrants at the early stages of immigration and to involve more of them in services. For example, providing access to services for parents caring for their children at home will promote the integration of the whole family,” says Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen.
Municipalities will have a larger role in promoting integration
The reform will increase the municipal responsibility for promoting integration. In future, services promoting integration will be organised as part of a new municipal integration programme and services provided by municipalities, wellbeing services counties and the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) as well as activities of organisations, associations or communities.
The new Integration Act is related to other major reforms of Sanna Marin’s Government, such as the transfer of employment and economic development services (TE services reform 2024) to municipalities in 2025. Providing different services and integrating them will become easier as municipalities will be responsible both for services related to promotion of integration and employment and skills development.
Integration programme will make transition to work and education quicker and more effective
In future, all immigrants will be offered low-threshold guidance and counselling services as well as basic information about the Finnish society.
Early-stage integration services will become part of a new municipal integration programme, which will include an assessment of service needs related to skills and integration, an integration plan, multilingual orientation to Finnish society, education and other services that promote integration and employment.
An integration plan will be drawn up for each immigrant to specify the services in which the immigrant will participate under the municipal integration programme. The reform will make the integration plans more goal-oriented and strengthen the link between the promotion of integration and working life. Finally, the new Integration Act will shorten the maximum duration of the integration plan and make further guidance to working life or employment and education services more effective.
Language studies will include a final exam
A final Finnish or Swedish exam will be introduced in integration training as part of the integration programme. Due to the continuing support for self-motivated studies, immigrants will have opportunities to develop their skills even though the maximum duration of the integration plan will be shortened.
Improving the identification of skills and harmonising integration training more closely with other employment and education services will make the educational and employment paths of immigrants more efficient.
Integration will begin at the initial stage of immigration
Going forward, municipalities will assess the immigrant’s skills and need for integration services and prepare an integration plan for both unemployed jobseekers and immigrants outside the labour force. Such assessments will also apply to beneficiaries of international protection, recipients of home care allowance and victims of human trafficking. The aim is to strengthen the Finnish or Swedish language skills, civic orientation and social inclusion of these groups, in particular of parents caring for children at home. If necessary, the assessments and plans will be carried out in cooperation between the municipality and the wellbeing services county.
The reform will clarify the process of assigning beneficiaries of international protection to municipalities and the responsibilities of different authorities at the early stages of receiving quota refugees. Accommodation of unaccompanied minors in group homes will become an activity carried out in accordance with the Social Welfare Act.
Reform will improve coordination of services
The reform will clarify the authorities’ responsibilities and cooperation related to the promotion of integration. Promoting integration is part of national, regional and local administration, and cooperation between the authorities plays a key role in it.
The comprehensive reform will also simplify the funding system where the central government compensates municipalities and wellbeing services counties for promoting integration. Municipalities receive additional funding for the new duties.
As part of the TE services reform 2024 and the reform of the Integration Act, employment authorities and municipalities will receive instructions and guidelines to help them implement the new Act.
Piritta Jokelainen, Special Adviser, tel. +358 295 047 353
Mira Sinkkonen, Chief Specialist, tel. +358 295 047 293