On Friday, the new Finnish prime minister Petteri Orpo unveiled his government’s ambitious four-year program, outlining their plans for the nation. The immigration legislation tsunami, introduced in the new program, caused an immediate surge of anxiety in the Finnish game developer studios and the international talent they rely on. The proposed measures would propel the Finnish immigration practices one step forward and two steps back, jeopardising the industry’s global competitiveness.
The game industry stands as Finland’s leading cultural export sector, yet it struggles with a talent shortage. At its core, the industry’s competitiveness hinges upon its ability to attract and retain top-tier international talent. 30% of the industry’s workforce comprises highly skilled individuals who have immigrated to Finland, often with their families. The attractiveness of Finland for leading global industry talents has enabled Finnish game companies not just to stay afloat but also to prosper in tough international competition and level up the skills of the local industry talent to a world-class level.
In principle, the Finnish game industry warmly applauds that Orpo’s government puts access to global talent at the core of the new program celebrating work and entrepreneurship as the vital building blocks to the country’s well-being. Notably, the government presents a determined vision to enhance immigration-related eGovernment services. Moreover, the new government is dedicated to making Finland’s world-famous education system more accessible in English, which makes the country even more attractive for the top games industry talent with families. The planned improvements on the tax treatment of immigration-related costs are pivotal next steps in making relocation-related expenses fully tax deductible in the country.
Regrettably, these significant improvements in the Finnish immigration system are at risk of being rendered ineffective by negligent budget cuts and harsh new immigration policies, if approved, causing permanent and long-lasting harm to Finland’s attractiveness in the eyes of top global talents.
- The new government must abandon the brain drain booster initiative. So far, the rules on what happens to a work-based residence permit after terminating a work contract have been somewhat unambiguous. The new government plans to clarify the situation by deporting everyone who fails to sign a new work contract within three months after the previous one has ended. Many Finnish companies have invested thousands of euros to attract and relocate high-earning experts to Finland. Instead of helping to retain these top taxpayers in Finland after the layoffs, the new government plans to push them to search for new jobs in countries that offer greater administrative stability and security for themselves and their families.
- The new government must cancel the budget cuts creating new bottlenecks in the immigration process. The Finnish game industry highly appreciates that the new government plans to ensure that top global talent willing to enter the country with a specialist residence permit will be able to get their residence permit applications processed within one week and relocate to Finland immediately after that. Unfortunately, the government also plans to cut the budget for onsite one-stop shops, so-called Talent Hubs, securing the smooth immigration process after entering the country, potentially creating new unnecessary administrative bottlenecks in the immigration process.
- The government must not create artificial restrictions for its talent attraction efforts. Many game industry’s top talents are recruited by game developer studios before completing their higher education degrees. Furthermore, when it comes to top global talent, the country of origin has no impact on their ability to get employed or integrate in Finland, as wrongly concluded in the new government program. Consequently, the government should not restrict its talent attraction efforts to specific countries; instead, it should focus on attracting the top global talent by being present in leading global industry networks and events.
The planned immigration legislation tsunami, simultaneously tightening requirements for permanent residence permits and citizenships, possibly imposing new obligations for unemployed spouses and a deportation system for unemployed international talent in Finland, and discontinuing Talent Hub services, has already created unnecessary uncertainty about the future of Finland’s work-based immigration system. The new government must be careful not to take further steps in pushing the top global talents to consider relocating to other countries from Finland or weakening the attractiveness of Finland as a potential relocation destination in the eyes of top international talent who possess the privilege of choosing their preferred country to work.
The Finnish game industry trusts that, as agreed in the new government program, the business impacts, costs, and competitiveness effects of planned immigration rules will be carefully evaluated before any of them enter the parliament, and the government will abandon the initiatives harming international recruitment and talent attraction to Finland. The new government must demonstrate its commitment to a predictable, proportionate, and innovation-friendly immigration framework and secure that the”one regulation in, one regulation out” principle also applies to the administrative burden and costs imposed by the immigration bureaucracy on Finnish businesses. All in all, the government must tackle talent shortage and fuel economic growth by investing more in international recruitment.
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Chief Policy Advisor
Neogames Finland ry. is the umbrella organisation for the Finnish game industry, coordinating, accelerating, and supporting the growth of the Finnish game industry. A functional immigration system is essential for the success of the industry and its surrounding ecosystem. Together with its members, the Finnish Game Developers Association representing Finnish game developer studios, game industry service providers, regional cluster organisations, and educational institutions, Neogames Finland ry is dedicated to building, supporting and defending an inclusive game industry community in Finland that attracts the best global talent into the country.