Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Islamic Values in Elderly Care in Finland: The Perspective of Muslim Women Caregivers

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Islamic Values in Elderly Care in Finland: The Perspective of Muslim Women Caregivers

Article excerpt


Finland has traditionally had an ethnically homogenous population, but in recent decades, the country has experienced an increase in the number of immigrants. In 2012, the number of foreigners resident in the country was 195,000, accounting for 3.6 percent of the population (Vaestoliitto, 2014). The immigrant population includes persons from predominantly Muslim countries.

Also on the rise in Finland, is the elderly population, a trend to be seen in the other Scandinavian countries and many societies across the Western world. The Finnish population is ageing faster than that in other European Union countries (Salin, 2013). Today, 17.5 percent of the population is over 65 years of age (Statistics Finland, 2014), and the figure is growing rapidly, increasing demand for elderly care in coming years.

Finland is described as a Nordic welfare state, characterised by the state's strong role (Greve, 2007), particularly so in the case of elderly care. However, analyses of recent developments show signs of marketisation and the emerging privatisation of care; another trend is the integration of informal family care into the formal care system (Anttonen and Haikio, 2011; Kroger and Leinonen, 2012; Yeandle et al., 2013). Regardless of the way care is organised, it is evident that, in keeping with demographic changes, the need for care is increasing (Hunt et al., 2014), sparking a concomitant increase in the demand for women workers in elderly care (Castle, 2008; Donoghue, 2010; Kash, Naufal, Cortes, & Johnson, 2010). It follows that the number of immigrant women care-givers will rise accordingly, some of whom will be from countries of Islamic origin, such as Afghanistan, Albania, Iraq, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Gambia, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Nigeria and the former Yugoslavia. The number of Muslims in Finland, a country of some five million, is estimated to be 60,000 persons (Kern, 2011).

The increasing share of immigrant caregivers is a relatively new phenomenon in Finland, whereas in many European countries, and in many other parts of the world, the role of such workers has been widely discussed in recent policy and research (Spencer et al., 2010; Welsh and O'Shea, 2010).

Some Finnish immigrant caregivers have lived in the country for several years and have a care-related educational qualification obtained in Finland; the country has also actively recruited educated care professionals from abroad (Lauren and Wrede, 2011). Consequently, at present, in the care environment, one sees an unprecedented degree of interaction between individuals from different cultures and cultural backgrounds. An understanding of such interactions (Aranda & Knight, 1997) is of increasing importance in the society. Within this context and in this light, we focus in this article on the perspective of Islamic women caregivers who for the most part encounter Finnish clients and colleagues in their work.

While one can see a significant movement towards promoting theoretical understanding and the advancement of research in the care sector to recognise culture and incorporate it into health services (Sagar, 2012), to date relatively little effort has been made to understand the implications of cultural changes in the workforce and the experiences of immigrant carers (Walsh and O'Shea, 2010). Our practical knowledge of cultural interaction among care professionals from a variety of cultures (Aranda & Knight, 1997) remains relatively limited. Such knowledge would be important for a diverse range of needs and practices, and would increase understanding of the culture of both healthcare professionals and clients in care institutions. This is the case in Finland, where the growing number of caregivers and care receivers from multicultural backgrounds in elderly care institutions and hospitals.

All societies have norms of care and behaviour based on age, lifestyle, gender and social values. …

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