A brief visit to my native Finland last week included a day at #KIELI2018, the annual conference of Finnish Language Service Providers (SKY). It was my pleasure to contribute as a speaker, but I was also interested in hearing about the challenges and opportunities of Finnish language companies.
The event brought together 90 translation and interpreting professionals from Finnish companies, peer organisations and academic translator training programmes. Since most of the speakers used English, this national conference was also attended by half a dozen translation industry representatives from neighbouring countries.
Keynote speaker Konstantin Dranch from Nimdzi Insights presented a report on the Finnish language services market. As a market research and consultancy organisation, Nimdzi believes that many of the translation industry’s challenges stem from the fact that not everybody has access to the same quality and quantity of information. We all require better insight into this industry – and that is exactly where Konstantin comes in.
Nimdzi estimates the addressable LSP opportunity in the Finnish market to be EUR 120–170 million, allowing for around EUR 50 million for work that is duplicated in the supply chain. It is a sizeable opportunity – half of what is spent on outsourced language services in Russia and a quarter of what is spent in France. Not bad, considering the population of Finland is less than 10 per cent of those countries. Even local regional comparisons favour Finland. The Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) combined have a similar population and foreign trade volume as Finland, but the Finnish translation market is nearly twice the size of theirs.
There are over 1,300 registered language service providers in Finland, but the top 50 control 62 per cent of the revenue. We heard brief status updates from five domestic players. Lingsoft is investing in AI and capitalising on the business opportunities it creates. AAC Global discussed the impact of large multinational MLVs operating in the Finnish market and competing with local service providers. Delingua reported that with their translation business in good order, they will now switch their focus to interpreting. Transfluent continues to work skilfully with investors, seemingly burning their money but definitely not wasting it, as they put it. Semantix wants LSPs to climb up the value chain and come to clients’ attention much earlier in the global communication process.
Everyone agreed that public sector procurement has a major impact on the market in Finland, contributing at least 40 per cent of the total opportunity. And if upcoming tenders put huge price pressure on providers, this will not only end up affecting professionals in the translation and interpreting industry, but also end users of the services covered by these public contracts.
The Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum ranks Finland as the third most gender-equal country in the world after Iceland and Norway. Though Finnish law requires equal pay for equal work, the Statistics Finland figures show that in this land of gender equality, women still receive 83 cents for euro received by men. It was therefore good to hear Nimdzi report that the monthly pay gap for linguists in the private sector in Finland is only 7 per cent. The world-wide language services gender pay gap reported by Common Sense Advisory in 2017 was 19 per cent.
SKY did well in extending their event invitation to freelance translators and academic partners. This kind of inclusive approach is worth exploring further in the coming years. The Finnish translation and interpreting community is relatively small – I was delighted to meet an ex-colleague I had not seen in 20 years – and will certainly stand behind any effort to raise the profile of their important work.