Life on the boths sides of the gulf: Estonian worker’s story

Written by: Group 2. Johanna Nykopp, Jenni Tepsa, Anna Vanninen

Aliide has two homes – one in Estonia and the other in Finland. The house in Tallinn she has built with her husband. The house in Finland is a work apartment and located just behind the Hospital she works in. Aliide misses her children who live in Tallinn but thinks this is the best way to manage.
Aliide is the orderly in Kauniala Hospital in Kauniainen. The distance between her home and the working place depends on the point of view; from the house in Tallinn it’s roughly 100 kilometers, from work apartment about 10 meters.
Estonian-speaking people is the second biggest foreign language group in Finland after the Russians. At least 3 500–4 500 Estonian immigrants come to Finland every year. Most of them are construction workers. Also a significant amount of immigrants come for farming jobs, berry picking and prostitution.

From a soviet nation to the wealthy Finland

Aliide came to work in Finland first time in the beginning of the 90’s. She worked in holiday resort in Orilampi with her husband. The owner of the resort had been a guest in an Estonian hotel were the couple worked. She asked if they wanted to come to work for her in Finland.
Couple took the deal leaving their 10-year-old son behind.
“Our son stayed with his grandparents. We could take only our 5-year-old daughter with us.”
Working in the resort was well paid. The couple bought a car from Tallinn with the money they earned during one summer.
Then came the recession. Aliide and husband were fired.
Migrant workers are one of the groups that the economical recession probably tries the most. One of the reasons is that the immigrants often work at the business like construction and tourism, which the economic downturn hits first.
Patric Taran, migrant expert from ILOs international migrant program, says that the migrant workers are first to blame when times are economically unstable.
People claim that the migrants stamp salaries which means that working conditions and wage level has became weaker in the host country. However, there are no statistics that will support this claim.

Back to the free homeland

“Estonia became independent during our stay in Finland. When we returned the country was totally different. We decided to try to continue our lives there.”
Couple tried to get by in Estonia. They even set up a restaurant – but it was bankrupted soon.
Bad luck continued when Aliide had a car accident. She became unable to work. After a year her support ended and she had to return to work. She worked occasionally in various restaurants and was at first in a lot of pain.

“Heart in one home, work in another.”

In the 2002 Aliide read from a local newspaper that Finnish family was looking for a nanny. They promised a long term job, own apartment and a good paycheck. Aliide decided to return to Finland. She became the nanny of four children.
“But I didn’t get a new apartment. It was a room inside the employer’s house. At first the family wanted to pay me under-the-counter but I told them that if I didn’t pay taxes, I could be deported.”
Family took care of Aliides paperwork. She isn’t sure if everything went by the book. Many of the Estonians work for service sector in Helsinki metropolitan area. It is suspected that many of the immigrant work under-the-counter but there is no statistic on the matter.
In 2004 Estonia became a member of the EU. After that, it has been impossible to make statistics of Estonian workers in Finland, as they don’t need a permission anymore, if they stay less than 3 months. For Estonians it’s easy, as most of them go home even every weekend.

When Aliides Estonian friend told her about the work at the hospital she applied. She was soon offered a job as an orderly.
“I took the job immediately. The salary was better and I could move in with my husband who works at a Finnish construction company.”
Aliide visits Estonia as often as she can. At least once a month.
“Our grownup son and daughter live in our house. Whit them lives also our sons girlfriend and their child. I’m a grandmother!”
Aliide misses her family and Estonia. She is going to move back in her own house in Tallinn when she is retired.
“I have two homes. In one I have my work and in the other my heart.”

Aliides name is changed.

The Finnish government’s report on the changes in the amount of the Estonian workers in Finland under Estonian’s EU membership (Published by Labour union SAK)

Työn maailma (The World of Work -magazine) by International Labour Organisation. Issue 3-4/2011 Article: Siirtotyöläiset kahden tulen välissä (Migrant workers between a rock and a hard place) p.8

Statistics Finland: Population structure 2010.

Personal interview.


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