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Americans, Canadians and Britons among those lured by campaign to attract foreign tech workers

Finland has received more than 5,300 applications in a month for a groundbreaking scheme offering foreign tech workers and their families the chance to relocate to the Nordic country for 90 days to see if they want to make the move permanent.

“We’re not top of many relocation lists, but we know once people do come, they tend to stay,” said Johanna Huurre, of Helsinki Business Hub which devised the campaign. “There’s huge competition globally for talent, so we had to think creatively.”

Huurre said the 90-Day Finn scheme had sparked most interest in the US and Canada, which accounted for about 30% of applicants. The rest were spread evenly, with more than 50 Britons and one applicant from the south Pacific island of Vanuatu.

The majority had families and wanted to work remotely for their current employers, at least initially, Huurre said, while more than 800 were entrepreneurs seeking to launch startups, 60 were investors, and the remainder were job hunting.

Finland, which brought the world Nokia, SMS, 5G and Linux, has a booming €6bn start-up scene with the world’s highest number of digital startups per capita. Tech multinationals such as Google, Bayer and GE Healthcare have also recently opened campuses in the country.

The 90 Day Finn scheme – now closed – will provide successful applicants with all necessary official documentation, suitable housing, school or daycare for their children, remote working facilities, introductions to tech hubs and networks in and around Helsinki, and help with permanent residency.

“It’s been a great campaign to showcase Finland,” said Joonas Halla, of Business Finland. “What’s good is the practical approach. The tech sector here is really thriving – by one estimate it should create 50,000 new jobs in 2021. We need the talent.”

Newcomers, particularly from the US, are attracted not just by the job prospects but by the universal healthcare, generous parental leave, work-life balance, proximity to nature – and the way the government has handled the coronavirus pandemic, Halla said.

Ranked the world’s happiest country three years in a row, Finland has managed to keep its Covid-19 death toll to 85 per million inhabitants, one of the lowest rates in the world. “Companies have really noticed that,” said Halla. “From a business perspective, it all helps build confidence and trust – and that’s vital.”