Estonians are currently Finland’s largest group of foreign-born residents. According to the Finnish Population Register Centre, there were 28,965 Estonian citizens living in Finland at the end of last year.
The Estonians narrowly overtook the Russians, who numbered 28,459 at the end of 2010.
“People come here from Estonia mainly as labour”, says Antti Saastamoinen of the police immigration unit. Saastamoinen is responsible for registering EU citizens living in Finland.
“Judging from the labour contracts, construction and cleaning are the biggest sources of employment. It is much rarer for professionals involving high levels of education to come to Finland to work from across the Gulf of Finland.”
Estonians are driven to seek work in Finland by their own country’s poor employment situation.
Urmas Soots, from Otespää, came to Finland to study already in 1990, when Estonia was still part of the Soviet Union.
“Then I just stayed, as the system became more familiar, and I felt good here. In Estonia the construction industry is so quiet that there would probably not be much work available. All contractors are either here or in Sweden”, says Soots, a 38-year-old construction engineer.