What scared Europeans most about the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis? Opinion polls taken around the height of the crisis show deep levels of unease with what was happening, and many of the political shocks that have occurred in the aftermath (such as Brexit) have been blamed on the early handling of the crisis. Was it anxieties about security, safety, and public order? Was it fears about cultures changing? Was it worries about competition for jobs, hospital beds, and school places?

We want to dig into some of the concerns of ordinary Europeans when it comes to the refugee and migrant crisis, and get responses both from experts and policymakers, and from people working with the issue on the ground at the local and municipal level. We’re going to start by looking at the “bread and butter” issue of jobs.

That’s why, in order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis is on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

Today, we are looking at Lahti, Finland. In a 2016 poll, unemployment and refugees topped the list of issues that ordinary Finns were most concerned about. As a city, Lahti certainly knows about unemployment. Despite once playing host to a thriving industrial economy, Lahti was hit hard in the early 1990s when its most significant export market, the neighbouring Soviet Union, collapsed. Over 8,000 factory jobs were lost in just 5 years, devastating the region.

Unemployment has been falling in Lahti in recent years. In 2014, the jobless rate was almost 19%. Today it’s 16.5%. It’s still the highest in Finland, but it’s also a far cry from the period in 1994 when unemployment in the city reached almost 27%.

Friction between locals and refugees in Lahti made headlines at the height of the crisis in 2015, when a protester dressed as a member of the KKK was photographed near a bus full of asylum seekers. Yet, today, there are only about 1,000 refugees in the city, representing less than 1% of a population of roughly 119,000 people.

Curious to know more about refugees and the impact on employment in Lahti, Finland? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Julia arguing that, when it comes to the refugee and migrant crisis, “the EU needs to publicly accept the reality that there are not enough jobs for everybody”. Is she right? Do refugees really take away jobs? Or is the labour market more complicated than just a zero-sum game?

To get a response, we put Julia’s comment to Jyrki Myllyvirta, the Mayor of Lahti. As mayor of a city that has struggled with high levels of unemployment for years, what would he say to Julia?

The refugees in Lahti are a rather small group. We do have unemployed people in Lahti. We also have vacant jobs in Lahti. Unemployment is a problem, but refugees contribute to city life as a whole, and one cannot say they take jobs from other people. I would not say so.

To get another perspective, we also put the same comment to Sanna Saksela-Bergholm, a researcher at the Swedish School of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. What would she say to Julia’s point?

Your concern is completely understandable. Several states in Europe are still looking for the way out of the economic crisis of 2008. Actually, at the same time, the labour market is changing because of an ageing population and technological changes. So, in the future, new kinds of knowledge service-driven jobs will replace manufacturing jobs.

In other words, people have to be prepared to make changes in their lives to adapt to these challenges. So, actually, the question here is if we are ready to make the change in our life to better face the future challenges of the labour market. Here, actually, migrants – including refugees – only play a small role. We should keep in mind that migrants can also improve the labour market by bringing new kinds of jobs and skills.

Next up, we had a comment from Jenni, who believes that refugees are “taking over” the health system in her country. Is she right? Do refugees take away hospital beds, school places, social housing, etc., from locals?

How would Mayor Jyrki Myllyvirta respond?

What would Dr. Sanna Saksela-Bergholm say to the same comment?

Actually, there have not been any signs of crises related to loss of hospital beds and housing because of refugees explicitly. But, we have to keep in mind that the proportion of refugees is only – more or less – one percentage of the total population of Europe. Those refugees who arrive are in their twenties and thirties. So they’re fairly young and they’re willing to take part in the labour market. They are quite seldom in need of any long-term hospitalisation.

But, however, it is of course important that municipalities of receiving countries pay attention to the general housing policy of cities to avoid segregation of ethnic minorities (also, including refugees). So I would say that successful integration requires bridge-building between the newly arrived refugees and the local population.

Do refugees take away jobs? Or are things more complicated than that? Are there really only a limited number of jobs for people to compete for? Or does the health of the overall economy (and the sort of skills available in the labour market) have a greater impact? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

The Debating Europe “Cities & Refugees” project is co-funded by the European Union’s “Europe for Citizens” program.
IMAGE CREDITS: (c) / BigStock – Albuslacus, PORTRAIT CREDITS: Myllyvirta (c) Lassi Häkkinen – City of Lahti, Sanna (c) Christina Parvinen
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

80 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Those that actually want to work yes obviously, but it’s the inevitable & forced change to their culture by an out of touch elite that angers people. The 2019 MEP election will be interesting.

    • avatar

      Culture has always been modifying itself since stone age with influences from the outside. Its just happening faster now.

    • avatar

      Sandro Modifying is one thing, total destruction is another.

    • avatar

      yet unemployment in Greece is at 30%

    • avatar

      That was the situation in England. The British would not do the low paid jobs so the migrant workers did them. No one knows what will happen after Brexit. Many companies think they will cease to trade.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      “British would not do the low paid jobs so the migrant workers did them”…it’s very tedious the amount of times this gets spouted but does anyone who quotes it (including you) ever back it up with any evidence, have you personally heard anyone who’s unemployed in the UK say “i don’t want that job” ?

      How about the fact that someone in the UK with a home and a family to support cannot possibly survive on the same wage as an immigrant, with no responsibilities, who is happy living in a caravan on a farm with 10 other people?

  2. avatar

    Well, if you look at employment and housing statistics across many working class cities in the UK, making a comparison between pre 1999 (open borders), 1999 – 2016 (when the referendum happened) and 2016 – today (after mass EU migrant exodus) kinda blows any “they don’t take our jobs” argument out of the water tbh.. Speaking on a refugee level, no they don’t take our jobs (officially), they do, however, take our welfare, take our housing and work black.. So, take your virtue signalling propaganda and shove it up your a*se

    • avatar

      If you look at the natural resources statistics in Africa and india before colonization ,slavery and structural adjustment programs from european leaders kinda blows away any “they r taking our jobs, housing and welfare”. A reugee is such when his status is recognized by public officials.

    • avatar

      again, not my problem, just because Britain had an empire 100s of years ago? Stop crying and develop ffs.. If you look at the statistics of Africans who STILL (after decades of freedom) cannot even farm, for example.. By all means keep playing the victim card, but do it on someone else’s time

  3. avatar

    The question which haunts me more than the one asked here is, how the refrain that Europe needs mass immigration to make up for the labor shortages caused by its aging indigenous population is compatible with the scenario of a coming a.i. onslaught (which will be the real job killer in the end).

    • avatar
      Paul X

      For mass immigration to make up for the shortfall due to the aging population the majority need to be skilled and educated so they get jobs that earn enough for them to pay tax and national insurance…unfortunately, most of the ones that do bother working (and are not cash in hand) are below the threshold and will contribute nothing…in fact they probably qualify for work based benefits

      The argument that immigration is needed to counter an aging population is only valid if that immigration is controlled based on education and skills shortage

  4. avatar

    Apart from that, realistically, many if not most of them will never make it out of the handout circuit or will get stuck in the informal economy where they will be exploited, often by other migrants. So continuing to feed illusions about the life they can get in Europe is simply criminal – against these people, and against the European societies.

  5. avatar

    More often it’s a multinationals companies fault who are turning them into economic workers; they’re paied less than an Italian ; and they are doing works that others don’t like to do . Sometimes they’re treating like a beast because they don’t have to lose their rights , they don’t have any speech at all.

    • avatar

      But still they accuse them of stealing their jobs.

  6. avatar

    No they don t……no need to work….. U work for their welfare benefits …..that’s enough.

    • avatar

      Are they human been or Animals?

    • avatar

      Human r animals….but of the worst kind…..leave the animals out of this…they suffer enough at the hands of the “humans”

  7. avatar

    Basically, it is the manager who are deciding who to employ.

  8. avatar

    Yes! Refugees nowdays agree to work with low salary,so people
    that don’t accept to work with make oneself unemployed…so yes,immigrants nowdays ,for a few money,have created an unpleasant situation for all of us

  9. avatar

    Refugees and immigrants have made a real contribution to the economy. They are usually very keen to work for their new country and don’t mind paying the taxes. They live cheaply, and most of Europe needs young fit workers, as so many of us are non-working pensioners.

    • avatar

      Thanks sweet. But many of as are in the wrong hands who don’t even care if you sick and if we even have like someone to help as those taking care of as will report that person saying we don’t have document, trust me is two and half years now I don’t even know who my lowyer is. I never see him before

    • avatar

      Pfff, So your criteria is to get cheap workers and this is what you are looking for? They are many young, fit Europeans why do we need more..According to your way of thought, migrants are beneficial for corporations to keep wages low and keep them on power.

    • avatar

      I think you’re seeing it from the opposite view. The refugees and immigrants want to come to Europe for a lot of different reasons. If you ever visit countries where there are a lot of young people and less of us oldies, their economies are dynamic and vibrant. You can’t say Europe is particularly dynamic these days, and there is a shortage of young, educated people willing to start a career and make something of their life. Maybe that would be working for an employer, maybe for themselves. European workers have been vital to the British economy up till now, both in low paid jobs and skilled jobs, and they will still be needed after brexit. But will they be there? Who will replace them? It could be an opportunity, but I don’t know if we or Europe are ready to embrace it.

    • avatar

      Please, give us a break. There are countries that have 30% unemployment and lousy salaries, because an immigrant is ready to take someone’s job with minimum money because that minimum happens to be ten months wages in his homeland where he is building a villa.

    • avatar

      Not really sure where you get the notion from that we have a shortage of young educated people? In the Netherlands for instance, we have plenty of young educated people who are struggeling finding a job in their field and as such are reduced to doing jobs like waiting and bartending eventhough they have masters degrees..
      Meanwhile, laws that were meant to make it easier to get a good long term contract with an employer have backfired and are the reason companies don’t give people long term contracts at all anymore..
      Immigrants don’t help the situation because on the workfloor they now will have 1 or 2 well educated workers who supervise and a bunch of cheap immigrants that do all the legwork..
      Why hire 1 European youth when you can have 3 immigrants for the same amount of money?
      Most immigrants coming to western europe come for one thing only, better payed jobs. They get payed more here than they would in their own country yet get payed less than a native of this country doing the same job. This simply prices our youth out of the job market.
      Most of the youth that come out of school would like nothing less than to start themselfs on the path of finding a decent steady job so they can pay off student loans and get started on the property ladder etc. In this fast paced ever changing world however, companies are no longer willing to commit to long term contracts and are always looking to get more work done for less money to cut costs in an effort to compete with cheap imports and services from other countries i.e. China.
      The countries you speak of where there is a dynamic and vibrant economy have laws that insure youth of jobs when they finish school and where education is mostly still payed for by the government so students are not started off in life with a big pile of debt.
      I think you base your opinion on how things were 30 years ago when europe was struggeling to fill jobs and we were in desperate need of migrants to fill jobs. These days things are a lot different. There are less and less jobs because of automation and europe has opened the flood gates of European workers comming from eastern European countries who are willing to work for less money. This has made it a buyers market where companies can pick and choose who ever they want working for them and can sidestep all the rights that were fought hard and long for by workers unions over the years.
      At the same time it’s people like you who share the opinion that our youth is “not willing” or “lazy” that keep this system alive.
      We should be putting our own youth first and if there’s anything left fill those jobs with migrants.. But we dare not say that for the sake of being called racist..

    • avatar

      Robin Lavender you make some very good points, and demonstrate to me that it is a complicated situation. Everything has a knock on effect on something else. Eg if big companies (Amazon, Starbucks, etc) paid taxes like ordinary folk, then MAYBE universities could be subsidised like they used to be and young people would not have so much debt. In some countries, it actually seems we have too many educated people and not enough to do the less demanding but essential jobs, I don’t know what we do about that. The answer has been migrant workers, but people don’t like them! Except the bosses! If, say, farmers paid a decent wage to their seasonal workers, would consumers pay the increased cost of food? I honestly don’t know. To me, the answer is political but it’s sad that so many are now thinking we need to keep out all the desperate people who put their lives at risk to get here. Many have nowhere to go, so I try to think how they could stay and make a contribution to our society.

  10. avatar

    I have been struggling for two years now I don’t even have hospital card, i try hard to prove to the officials that I need a job, I think those taking care of as don’t like as is the fat,

    • avatar

      ???? Are you European? If not why did come?
      There are many Belgians struggling what make you think you are a priority.

    • avatar

      No African will see European or white and ask why he or she looking for in Africa cos we are all made to know from each other

  11. avatar

    When corporations and Human Resources will stop firing people at the age of 40 while legislators who are out of connection with the people make the people work until the age of 67, and we have an unployment of over 7 percent all over Europe why take in more migrants? Furthermore most are from Africa? What skills are they bringing? Let’s pick and choose. Lastly most are of a non Christian faith and while there is nothing wrong with it, why are they not migrating to countries more in line with their faith and way of life. Let’s be real most of them reject our Western values and way of life and once they are in the EU they live in ghettos and replicate where they come from. Look at Molenbeek.
    Why are we debating this? Are eurocrates not hearing the wind i.e. rise of populiste parties throughout the EU. Are the media and journalist so obstinated in their judgement that they too don’t get the jist? Why don’t we fist deal with our people before dealing with other people issues. Stop going their their country to create war instead of providing them education so that they can stay in their countries. Stop financing dictators etc etc

  12. avatar

    If underskilled migrants would take away jobs from skilled europeans, then our real problem would be our own society. But no, they don’t take away jobs, we don’t compete for the same jobs, and when we do, we have obvious advantages. The welfare state and the difference in culture and core values are the problem with economic migrants. They are a tool for resolving our pension deficit, but a dangerous one, we shouldn’t probably use this tool at all.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      So you are saying everyone in Europe is skilled and therefore unskilled immigrants don’t compete for the same job’s?….I’m not sure what Europe you live in but in the real world there are plenty of unskilled indigenous people and immigrants have he “obvious advantage” of less responsibilities and therefore can work for less

  13. avatar

    What kind of society is the one that burns skillfull people from 25 to 45, then bye-bye up to 68-72 of age AND at the same time imports volumes of non skilled non compatibles offering full benefits paid from tax payers money ??? What kind of civilized club is the one were discrimination between north and south its considered Ok either its about economy, imigration, border control or other ???

  14. avatar

    The issue is about regulating the numbers many see as limitless, out of control; once in, that labour laws are in place, this more a matter for the “hosts” to respect.

  15. avatar

    No they don’t,,,in fact they create demand,, which in turn creates jobs. ,,, which in turn fuels inflation,,, which in turn causes a rise in interests rates,, which by then stifles demand,,, and the repeat cycle begins once again,,,

    • avatar

      How do they create demand if they have no money to spend ?

    • avatar

      Propensity is the key word,, they have to eat, they have to live somewhere,, clothing, go and enrol in a university and study economics,, demand for knowledge and it’s compound effects,,

    • avatar

      thanks man. You are really educated.

    • avatar


    • avatar
      Paul X

      Obviously, because every immigrant that steps out of a rubber dingy on a Greek shore has a wallet bursting with cash just waiting to buy a house and nip down to Tesco for a trolley full of groceries….

  16. avatar

    Nobody takes jobs! If someone wants to work there are plenty of opportunities! If instead wants to become a director there are less!

    • avatar

      Please don’t lie. I can give you plenty of examples of jobs that the locals would do but the job has been taken. Cooks, tourist industry, Municipalities, babysitting. It is not true.

    • avatar

      You are so right

  17. avatar

    Very few and far between. The majority of them have no suitable skills that will make them employable.

    I can only disagree very strongly with Dr. Sanna Saksela-Bergholm. The situation in Greece is VERY different. Please, do feel free to go and find out. My auntie is a nurse in a hospital in the town of Kilkis. The hospital is having to turn away “Greeks” and cancel planned operations in order to deal with the overwhelming numbers of “Syrian refugees” who constantly need some kind of urgent help/operations. Apparently, a big number of them in order to give birth… The hospital was considering closing down completely because it was unable to cope. Please, do look into this and find out.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      Not that I disbelieve you but can you provide some kosher statistics to support your anecdotes please?

    • avatar

      It’s not about believing or not believing me, Tarquin. Like I said in my post, this is what my relative who works in that hospital has told me and I am actually asking the page or anyone who can to investigate. Please, read carefully before you reply because otherwise you make yourself look like a paid troll.

  18. avatar

    Every person that comes here takes something. That is a undeniable fact. My opinion is if they have a job then that is a good thing for them and for the people in that country.

  19. avatar

    It’s amazing cos more than half of the people who comment are foreigners themselves lol

    • avatar

      We are all foreigners.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      “We are all foreigners”…only to other foreigners

  20. avatar

    It is a bit strange that the example is about Finland and not about an EE country of south Europe like Greece or Italy with much higher unemployment rates, where they arrive first ( and many stay…) or, countries of central EE where they host more “refugees” and suffer the consequences which are not only about jobs. The numbers would be quite different and not for the best…

  21. avatar

    Yes, but in a cheap way n less respected

  22. avatar

    Το πρόβλημα των δυτικών κοινωνιών και ειδικότερα της πατρίδας μας είναι κυρίως το δημογραφικό και δευτερευόντως το προσφυγικο-μεταναστευτικό.

    • avatar

      you have read my mind !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. avatar

    You have to be joking. With unemployment in Greece over 30% the majority with no unemployment subsidy and thousands of homeless Greeks the EU and the Mayor of Athens are giving funds to house, feed, give Pocket money and find jobs to any 23 year old guy who just claims to be a refugee.
    Give us a break.

  24. avatar

    For every issue, we should ask: Is it good for Europe?

  25. avatar
    Paul X

    On the assumption there is not an avalanche of job creation going on across Europe…added to the Liberal Left claim that all these refugees are hard working people who are desperate to work and support themselves…. the answer to ” Do refugees take away jobs?” is clearly “Do bears sh!t in the woods”

  26. avatar
    catherine benning

    Do refugees take away jobs?

    Refugees are unproductive. They impoverish the nation they ask for solace. Then want to create mayhem by refusing to live by the cultural expectations of the hosts. Their aim is the change the host culture to that from whence they left.

    The refugee situation is also a ruse to enter a country they know full well they are not entitled the reside in. So, the game is, play on the dumb human rights laws, cos the West is full of idiots who deserve it.


    And the cities of the UK are reaching the murder horror levels of South Africa.


    • avatar

      The crime rate in Greece has significantly gone up because of “refugees” not only this time from Syria. Also Georgians when there was a war there. Not that everyone is a criminal but you do see the crime rate go up as soon as large groups of people from underdeveloped countries enter.

  27. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Of course, refugees take away jobs BUT they also create jobs too!

    What a silly question, tsk, tsk.

  28. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias vestias

    I agree Europe Union Reforms An economist study linked voting to chages in immigrations rather than the actual total level of immigration

  29. avatar
    Liechtenstein Bro

    This shouldn’t even be a debate… As long as countries like Greece or France has unemployment rates as catastrophic as they do now with their own native population. The last thing we need to be thinking about right now is to give jobs to migrants. Les notres avant les autres.

  30. avatar
    Jorge Sousa

    Yes, Hungary should accept refugees.

  31. avatar
    Franz M

    If a refugee with problems getting his education accepted by countreis, mybe some language deficites etc, still gets a job over you, it is your own fault.
    I bring back to mind the discussion of 2015 wheater refugees coming nin are educated, or not, and if they would be able to sustain themselves in Europe. Now that they are here and start to work it is all of the sudden a big problem. YOu Cannot have it both ways. Well, of course there are refugees who have a lack in education, but the countries can do something about it. Same for languge skills.
    Additionally, the jobs open in the EU are growing. So there are theoretically jobs for everybody. MOst often migrants do jobs Europeans do not want to do today, so they are an important fundation of Europe’s economy.

  32. avatar

    yup. But they mostly take taxpayer money, thanks to the irrational socialist agenda most EU states have

  33. avatar

    For the most part, they are not permitted to work

  34. avatar

    refugees?legal migrants?or illegal migrant?
    You seem to be unaware of the differences, and that’s worrying…

  35. avatar

    No, fact is foreign born population contribute more than they receive from the state, anywhere. They are also 3 times more likely to setting up a business than local population so they end up creating jobs. European countries need so badly to attract more people in working age to be able to pay for the pensions of the huge retirement crowds that are going to follow next years. Those are facts, but it is easier to scare the population and blame others for the mistakes of a corrupt and irresponsible political class.

  36. avatar

    No they make jobs because they buy a lot of knives and other hardware !!!!!😥

  37. avatar

    No, they do not work. ONLY social care they take.

  38. avatar
    Max Konidis

    I think that refugees do not take our jobs away from us! People might think that they are working so much that they are trying to take our jobs away from us. That is false. They moved to our countries so they can be safe, and their country probably had a war or terrorism. They also probably left behind all of their money. Therefore, they have to earn money so they can pay for where ever they are living and so they can eat food and by clothing. On the other side if we didn’t let refugees have jobs than they would be on the streets homeless and have no one or nothing for them to live!

  39. avatar
    Post Malone

    I thinks dats its cool yo

  40. avatar

    I think Europe has helped the world enough, now it can attend to its own problems.

  41. avatar
    Daniel Aliu

    Refugee dont take away job unlike in Germany there are many jobs that citizen cant do that refugee does.e.g cleaning of hotels.fruits arrangement or cleaning of offices .but some refugees are well responsible doing electrical job,painting job and even driving busees and train .but we beg the government to give resident permit to those people

  42. avatar

    Why can’t citizens do those jobs?

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