This article is originally published in the book Seitsemän näkymää Suomelle – ajatuspajojen tulevaisuusvisioita (2017). This article was translated from Finnish to English by Mikko Laurila and the translation was arranged by Touko Kivi.
A nation state or a multicultural society?
At the same time as Finland is celebrating its centenary, its population development raises concern. The domestic language speaking population has been diminishing for several consecutive years and the growth in the entire country is based on rise of immigration and foreign language speaking population – in short, Finnish population is diminishing where the foreign-based population is growing.
The Finnish population structure is rapidly changing. In 2014, the foreign language speakers exceeded the Swedish speaking population in the country, hovering around six per cent of the overall Finnish population. The rise of foreign language speaking population is rampant especially in big cities. They represent around 15 per cent of the population in the metropolitan area and is forecast to cover some 25 per cent of the area by 2030.
The amount of humanitarian immigrants from Africa and Middle East is quickly rising. Assimilation of large populations, especially from areas mentioned above, to the Western society has turned out to be impossible, creating various financial and social problems.
The African population is estimated to quadruple from one billion during the current century. This means that immigration aimed to Finland and the Nordic countries is far from over. The rapidly growing deluge of immigrants has indicated that changes in population can be more rapid than anticipated.
It is therefore worth pondering the consequences of the ongoing shifts in population. It is also worth to consider the means of dealing with immigration and social politics – do we want Finland to be a nation state or a multicultural society?
Declining welfare society
Immigration on a large scale has a significant impact on the Finnish public economy. People from Africa and Middle East in particular are over-represented as welfare recipients and users of public services rather than as tax payers. Employment rates are very bleak within many groups and do not significantly improve even over a long period of staying in the country.
Humanitarian immigration therefore increases public spending which can only be financed by increased taxation or national debt. The development of shift in population will surely influence the debate over how extensive social services Finland can actually afford. The question will arise whether the labor market should become more flexible in order to employ people from groups with low employment rates.
Humanitarian immigration will not help the deficit caused by aging population’s impact on the dependency ratio. Instead, it further increases the burden of the public economy.
Society of trust in jeopardy
The high level of social capita is regarded as the best side in the Finnish society; people can depend on one another. The ethnic unity and low gaps in income largely contribute to this. The increase of ethnic diversity and multiculturalism help decay this integrity for as long as prolonged immigration is allowed to continue.
Research has indicated that the more ethnically diverse the area, the lower the level of trust in people and the society as a whole; additionally, the less people engage in voluntary work and charity and the more multiethnic the area is, the people’s quality of life appears to diminish. Multiethnicity negatively impacts both the upkeep of public services and the will to pay taxes.
Immigration has also contributed to the tightening of the political climate. In case the prevailing development in population structure continues, questions concerning resource spending are accompanied by the question whether the current social society is any longer justified in the future.
Security and citizen rights
Dismantling of the society of trust, along with the development of the ethnic diversity, also displays its role in the decline of national security. Many of the immigrant groups are over-represented as the perpetrators of violent and sexual crime. The increased risk of terrorism has also lowered the level of security.
Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein and Yugoslavia ruled by Tito are recurring examples of multicultural countries woven together in expense of citizen rights. Similar development can be seen in many multicultural European countries today.
Camera surveillance of public areas, Internet surveillance and telephone tapping keep increasing as tools of counter-terrorism. The multicultural society is being held docile by criminalizing arguments concerning its problems as ’hate speech’ and with censorship. This leads to narrowing of freedom of speech and criminalizes the stem population.
Threat of ethnic conflicts
Racism is a wide-spread topic in multicultural societies, but is very problematic as a term for its nearly exclusive indication to discrimination of various ethnic groups perpetrated by Western people. This phenomenon, however, is in the core of creation of ethnic conflicts – people trusting members of their own ethnicity over the others, which clearly shows in people’s interaction. Nations of the Middle East represent countries where different ethnic and religious groups attempt to co-exist. Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Israel are nations where ethnic tension and conflicts reflect to the society as a whole, acting as main reasons for civil wars and conflicts in the region.
Although multiculturalism is often portrayed in positive connections in the Finnish political debate, the truth is very different when its impact on the economy and the social integrity is taken into consideration.
The multicultural Finland of the future
The ongoing population shift is not historically unique. The immigration movement of Europeans moving to North America throughout the past five centuries can be seen as an example where the population of an entire continent was shifted practically entirely. Similar development is currently taking place with immigration from Asia and Africa to Europe.
What kinds of development the population shift will have on the society?
In the United States, means of integration, positive discrimination and political correctness have been applied to reduce conflicts between different ethnic groups for decades. Despite this, schools and churches remain ethnically segregated. Gaps in income and well-being are vast between population groups and race riots emerge from time to time. In Finland in the near future, the development is already reminiscent of the US and this path is already followed by several European countries. Population groups centralize in their particular areas and foreign-based ones form similar parallel societies which are present in every major European city suburb. Immigrants remain users of many public services where the stem population uses private schools and heath care when possible.
Terrorist attacks and everyday military presence in public spaces have turned a large part of the Western Europe to remind of countries ravaged by ethnic conflicts. Due to the population shift, Finland is swiftly heading the same way. Western countries with a large Muslim population are reminiscent of countries such as Israel where terrorism is mundane and questions concerning the society are reflected according to ethnic dividing lines.
The population shift could continue to escalade to the point where the European-based minorities live on heavily guarded areas and crime and lack of safety are major problems (as in South Africa, for instance). In such cases Finns, for example, pay high taxes to cover income transfers and public services they don’t even use themselves. Commotion in public spaces is practically limited due to safety issues.
Advancing Islamization along with the population shift could reduce the position of the members of the Christian culture even lower than that of the South African white population. The position of Christians living in countries with a Muslim majority indicates that boundaries can be set for religious practice; pogrom and other types of violence are inherit particularly in extremist Islam-reigned areas.
The varying attitudes of immigrants from different cultures towards the relation between religion and state, women’s position in society and rights of sexual minorities will definitely cause discord.
The pace of development of the scenarios mentioned above could take place in varying speed.
The Finnish Finland of the future
Finland also has an alternative. For example, Eastern Mid-European countries do not accept population structure altering multiculturalism and extensive immigration movements, which they have persistently prevented. Many western European countries also express strong resentment towards the population shift, including Finland.
Termination of humanitarian immigration is the most effective means of ending the ongoing population shift. This way Finland will avert both financial and social problems mentioned earlier that are caused by large scale immigration. Reverting resource spending from integration, cultural support and promotion of multiculturalism to furthering repatriation is also much more efficient means of avoiding ethnic contradictions rather than relying on the suggestion that spending a sufficient amount of resources will solve problems caused by integration efforts and problems between population groups.
Helping people in distress all over the world is easier rather on location than here in Finland. More resources could be spent on this provided that humanitarian immigration is being halted. It is also worth to remember that immigration is not ecologically sound. The opportunity of emigration to Western countries does not support developing countries to reduce their population growth. The stress caused on environment by human population is also heavier in industrialized countries than in developing countries.
Whether the size of Finnish population is four, five or six million in the future is hardly as relevant as the unity of its people. Controlled stagnation or reduction of population can even be welcome from an ecological standpoint. In Japan, the aging population is relatively growing as well as it is in Finland, but increased level of automation and the increased birth rate are seen as better solutions than extensive immigration.
The situation in the Middle East indicates that national independence of different ethnic groups is the only way to secure the area and peoples’ right to govern themselves and to protect their own culture. The strenghtening of independence movements in Europe (especially in Scotland, Corsica and Catalonia) along with resentment towards multiculturalism in different countries prove to surpass the multicultural model over time.
In political policy making it is worth considering that questions concerning cultures, ethnicity and identities are not going to disappear in the world. These questions were relevant when Finland gained its independence in 1917 and are relevant still in 2017. Nothing indicates to their irrelevance in 2117, either.