A group of foreigners played Mölkky in Tali, Helsinki, last winter. Immigration is an increasingly important driver of population growth in Finland.

Last year, immigration accounted for 76 per cent of the population growth as the number of births decreased for the fourth consecutive year, by 1,060 year-on-year to 57,080, according to Statistics Finland.

Marja-Liisa Helminen, a senior statistician at Statistics Finland, emphasises that one should not draw too far-reaching conclusions from the number of births as it is subject to yearly fluctuations. “This isn't a collapse. You shouldn't speak of a trend on this basis. The changes are relatively slow,” she reminds.

Regardless, the Finnish population would only be growing at a modest rate if it was not for immigration. Last year, the population grew by 23,020 persons to 5.474 million, with net immigration accounting for 17,540 and natural population increase for 5,480 persons.

Helminen also reminds that net immigration overtook natural increase as the main driver of population growth already in 2007.

The Finnish population is not only growing but also ageing. The proportion of over 65-year-old people of the population crept up to 20 per cent in 2014, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Finland. As a result, there are currently 1.093 million people aged 65 or older in the country.

As the population continues to age and the birth rate to decline, the so-called dependency ratio will erode and the funding of public services become more difficult.

The average age of the population has risen steadily, from 37.5 years in 1990 to 42.1 years today.

The effects of the demographic changes are subject to regional variation and depend, to a certain extent, on internal migration flows. Last year, the population of Uusimaa grew the most, by 19,290 persons, whereas that of Southern Savonia decreased by 900 persons.

Municipalities in Lapland and Kainuu suffered the greatest migration losses. A study published last autumn found that two-thirds of municipalities in Finland saw their population decrease between 2009 and 2013.

The Finnish population is thereby ageing, concentrating in increasingly densely-populated areas and becoming more international.

Pekka Mykkänen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Anni Koponen