Finland has often been celebrated as the world’s happiest nation and a model country of equality. Yet, the country is not as equal to everyone, as illustrated by a recent campaign that aims to improve the employment opportunities of Finland’s Roma minority: in a social experiment, four esteemed experts applied for work with their own CV’s but with typical Roma minority names. It is time for a change.
Four of Finland’s best-known experts and influencers applied for work in their respective fields but used a typical and distinguishable Roma name instead of their own. The purpose was to experiment whether the name itself – the only variable in the experiment – affects their employment. Not one received invites to job interviews despite their impressive experience detailed in their CV’s and applications.
Why do we need this campaign?
The campaign, aptly named “työnimi” (Finnish for “professional name”), stems from the fact that many Roma people resort to adopting a different name for work life just to gain a fairer starting point. According to a study conducted by the Finnish Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, more than half of Roma job-seekers report having faced discrimination during the process, and more than half of the Romas are unemployed, often due to discrimination.
Now this setting is turned upside down, to create a dramatic effect for the mainstream population, often the ones responsible for recruiting practices.
What is the status of the Roma minority in Finland?
The Roma minority has been in the country since the 17th century, and have full citizenship status. Despite this and being fully native in the Finnish language, the Roma people face discrimination in several areas of life, including employment.
Were the applications really sent?
Yes, all applications were sent. Temporary email addresses were created for the applicants with their false Roma names, and the emails were used for sending the applications. There was a total of 54 applications, and 0 invites for interviews within the follow-up period. However, after the campaign material had been made, one contact had been received for Meri-Tuuli Väntsi.
Who were the applicants in reality?
Tuomas Enbuske, a renowned talk show host and columnist; Jari Sarasvuo, a successful entrepreneur and business coach; Meri-Tuuli Väntsi, the former host of the Finnish version of the TV-show Apprentice, celebrity chef and catering entrepreneur; and Anne Kukkohovi, a former model and long-time Art Director.
All four volunteered for the campaign to support the cause.
Can’t the real persons and celebs be recognized behind the CV’s?
The CV’s were modified to make sure the real person behind the CV’s and applications cannot be recognized from their public and nationally recognized achievements. E.g. media related commissions, such as modelling, TV hosting, or certain company names were changed or deleted altogether and replaced with the core of the applicants’ skills. E.g. TV host and columnist > communication specialist.
Not even catering field and restaurants were interested, even though the field is underemployed in Finland, and one of the applicants, Meri-Tuuli Väntsi, has extensive experience in the field.
Is this an actual study?
No. This is a social experiment and a campaign striving to raise conversation and to make a change to an issue that thousands of Roma people face daily. However, there are actual studies in Finnish tackling this problem, and the campaign leans on them.
We aim at shaking the underlying racism in employment and strive to change the attitudes and beliefs as well as recruiting practices now that the problem has been widely recognized in the country.
Why use a Roma name – or not change it to a mainstream one?
The campaign, aptly named “työnimi” (Finnish for “professional name or working title”), stems from the fact that many Roma people resort to adopting a different name for work life just to gain a fairer starting point.
The Roma population, have a very distinctive naming tradition that makes it unfortunately easy for prejudice to do its work. The names, as well as the distinctive culture and attires have strong significance for the Roma people. We believe the world should change, not the ones who are discriminated.
Who made this campaign?
The campaign has been commissioned by Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak) in Finland, within its Nevo tiija – New Era project, promoting the employment of the Roma minority. The project is funded by the European Social Fund and the campaign material carried out by TBWA Helsinki.
The Roma people have been actively producing the contents of the campaign and fully support it.
For media: download pictures and the English version of the video: