How do Locals in Finland Identify Resident Foreigners

  • Minna Säävälä
Keywords: immigration, stereotypes, regional differences, Somalis


This study examines the identi? cation by Finns of foreign residents in Finland by analyzing data from a representative sample survey carried out in 2002. When people were asked to name a group of foreigners residing in Finland, the majority ?rst
mentioned Somalis, despite the fact that only 4 percent of foreign residents are Somali
and 6 percent of foreign-language speakers speak Somali. The general tendency when
identifying resident foreigners is to refer primarily to ethnic or national groups; references to status (e.g. refugee, return migrant, guest worker) or religion (e.g. Muslim)
are rare in the survey. In terms of ethnicity, identifying foreign residents in Finland
is inconsistent, particularly as Russians and Estonians, the two largest groups, are
not readily seen as foreign residents. The prevalence of answering Somalis could
be considered an outcome of the maximally visible difference between Finns and Somalis. A logistic regression analysis is used to examine whether identifying resident
foreigners differs according to socio-economic and educational characteristics, age,
gender, region, and attitude towards the number of resident foreigners in Finland.
The variables that signi? cantly in? uence the probability of answering Somalis and
Russians are the respondents region, age, attitude towards the number of foreign
residents in Finland, and to some extent, gender and higher education. Respondents
occupational status, vocational education or income does not have a signi? cant impact
on the answers. Regional differences appear to be a major factor affecting how foreigners are identi? ed, which shows that although the need to consider resident foreigners
as visibly, culturally and linguistically maximally different may be a nearly universal
base line for creating difference and identity, identifying foreign residents in Finland
is not entirely independent of demographic realities.

Jan 1, 2008
How to Cite
Säävälä, M. (2008). How do Locals in Finland Identify Resident Foreigners. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, 43, 115-130. Retrieved from