The skills and competencies of foreign-born arts and culture professionals in Finland often go unrecognized – experiences of discrimination are common
A recent research by the Center for Cultural Policy Research Cupore shows that employment of foreign-born arts and culture professionals in the Finnish cultural field is hindered by lacking language skills and networks, as well as failures to recognize or appreciate their qualifications. Experiences of various forms of discrimination are common. The Finnish arts and cultural institutions are poorly equipped to tackle problems regarding the employment of foreign-born professionals.
The foreign-born arts and culture professionals feel that their skills and competencies often go unrecognized or are undervalued in Finland. There are however considerable differences between the different fields of art. Music stands out as the field that best employs foreign-born professionals. Language also presents challenges for many: important information is often available only in Finnish, and many of the jobs in the field require fluent Finnish skills. According to the research, lacking professional networks in Finland moreover stand in the way of the employment.
Discriminatory practices, improper behavior and racism also occur in the Finnish cultural field. Experiences of discrimination and lacking information give rise to distrust and disappointment in the field itself and in the society at large. The same frustration with injustice is strongly surfacing also in the international Black Lives Matter movement against racism and discrimination.
There is a contradiction between the perceptions among the representatives of the studied arts and cultural institutions and at Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike) and the actual experiences of many of the foreign-born arts and culture professionals. Generally the attitudes at the institutions towards foreign-born professionals and cultural diversity are positive. According to the directors of the institutions, the principal reason for why they don’t employ more foreign-born persons is the scarcity of applicants with culturally diverse backgrounds. Limited funding and resources in the cultural sector furthermore hinder the recruitment.
A closer look at the practices of the arts and cultural institutions however shows that lacking competencies concerning cultural diversity and the prevailing recruitment practices also impede the employment of foreign-born professionals. Cultural diversity is often confused with international activities and only rarely taken into consideration in the personnel policies or organizational development of the institutions. The research also revealed that surprisingly few equality plans have been drafted at the institutions – also in the case of those that employ over 30 persons and are thus legally obliged to do so.
In 2017–2020 Cupore carried out a research project to review the status of foreign-born arts and culture professionals in Finland. The research also focused on the related practices at the museums, theaters and orchestras within the central government transfers system, at the national arts and cultural institutions, and more closely, at the National Museum of Finland, the Turku City Theatre, the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra and Arts Promotion Centre Finland. The Cupore research was part of a more extensive project entitled Opening. Becoming an agent in the field of arts and culture in Finland, conducted in 2017–2019 in cooperation with the Culture for All Service and Globe Art Point. The purpose of the project was to investigate and promote models that support the employment opportunities of foreign-born professionals to work in the Finnish cultural field.
The publication can be read at Cupore’s website:
Emmi Lahtinen, Marjo Mäenpää, Sirene Karri and Ari Kurlin Niiiniaho (2020). Opening. The status of foreign-born arts and culture professionals in Finland. Cupore webpublications 63. Center for Cultural Policy Research Cupore.
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