Esa Iivonen, a senior expert at the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (MLL), has voiced his concerns about the continuing decrease of births in Finland.
Statistics Finland reported late last month that a total of 48,810 births were registered in the country between January and November of 2016, representing a decline of almost 2,500 from the corresponding period in 2015 and one of 4,000 from the corresponding period in 2014.
“It's terribly lot, especially because it has taken place in two years,” states Iivonen.
The decrease in the number of births is attributable primarily to three factors, he estimates: the difficulty of finding a suitable partner, the deteriorating labour market position of young people and political decisions.
“There's certainly a trend of individualisation,” says Iivonen. “People don't have a partner to have children with and finding one is increasingly difficult.”
The difficulties of finding a suitable partner are compounded by the tendency of men and women to gravitate towards different careers and by regional differences in the proportion of men and women in the population – rural areas being home to a higher proportion of young men and urban areas to a higher proportion of young women.
The deteriorating labour market position of young people can similarly have an effect on the birth rate, according to Iivonen. “Whenever young people find it more difficult to enter the labour market, it naturally has an effect on whether or not [they decide] to have children,” he explains.
He believes spending cuts can similarly have an impact on the willingness of couples to have children. The Finnish Government, he points out, has adopted a number of spending cuts with ramifications for the younger generations, such as the cuts in the student allowance, child benefits and early-childhood education.
“Families with young children are in a tough spot,” he summarises.
Iivonen urges policy makers to take action to address the drop in the number of births – by, for example, increasing immigration.
“We'll have to increase immigration considerably, with the birth rate dropping so sharply. The question then becomes, is the country willing to increase immigration?” he says. “How will we be able to pay pensions in the future, if the generations in employment are notably smaller? Where will we find the employees and taxpayers? The Ministry of Finance should really be concerned about the development.”
The Finnish population is nevertheless growing. Statistics Finland's preliminary data also indicate that the population grew by 16,039 over the first eleven months of last year to 5,503,347.
“The population growth is a result of immigration. The surplus of births over deaths has continued to become smaller,” reminds Iivonen.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi