Birthrates down, emigration up, where is the talent of tomorrow?

In 2015 the smallest age group of Finland was born since the hunger years of the 1860s. In fact, birthrates have been declining for the past five years in a row. In January the population of Finland had the largest monthly decrease in 23 years. The dependency ratio is talked about a lot and is a significant societal challenge, but for companies the more important question is, how quickly will this impact the availability of talent.

Considering this angle, the official immigration numbers tell a grizzly tale. The number of immigrations decreased by 411 and emigrations increased by 163 compared to last year over the same period. According to Statistics Finland 15,486 people moved abroad from Finland in 2014. The largest group of emigrants were people aged 25-35, so those people who are in the most demand for the future. Especially highly educated and internationally oriented young people seek career opportunities abroad. A higher salary also attracts many. The majority of young professionals naturally remain in Finland, but the constantly shallowing pool of native talent should be of concern to employers. Even so, many businesses hang on to employing only Finns, and the search for talent is not actively aimed towards the international talent pool.

Last year emigration grew even more, and according to Statistics Finland Senior Actuary Matti Saari an emigration phenomenon of this magnitude has last been seen in the 1970s. So why are Finns in demand abroad, but Finnish companies experience the recruitment of foreign talent as frightening? It may come as a surprise to many Finnish companies that according to studies on the subject (How Cross-Border Movement of Persons Facilitate Trade, Kommerskollegium 2015) foreign employees in companies increase the export of goods and services to the employee’s home country by 4-6%. Finnish companies may be hesitant to enter global markets, where competition is often more fierce than in Finland. However, companies relying only on the Finnish market will still face pressure from international competitors operating in Finland.

Despite this hesitancy, more specialized and therefore rare talent is sought globally. In such situations, the position usually requires a level of seniority that is likely in high demand elsewhere as well. Many Finnish companies find themselves competing with companies based in London, San Francisco or Berlin for these highly sought-after individuals. In such cases, Helsinki, Tampere or Oulu often find themselves coming up short. Would it not be smarter to attract foreign talent at an earlier stage, which could then be grown and trained into the resources the company needs in the future? They would also bring with them networks, through which diverse future talent can be more easily found, even for specialized positions.

The signs currently heavily point to the fact that in the future companies will face a situation where vital positions cannot be filled with native talent. In many fields this is already the case. Shouldn’t companies be proactive and start nurturing their own international talents and their networks before they have no choice?