POPULATION GROWTH will fairly surely be negative in most regions of Finland, forecasts MDI, a regional development consultancy that is part of Finnish Consulting Group (FCG).
Having been sharp especially since 2010, the plummeting birth rate is expected to start having an impact in the education system in the coming years, with the number of primary school-aged children forecast to fall by over 80,000 by the end of the decade.
“Every fifth desk in a primary school will be empty in the average municipality,” Rasmus Aro, a specialist at MDI, summed up to YLE on Wednesday.
The number of primary school-aged children will not recover to the current level without a substantial increase in the birth rate. Statistics Finland in July reported that in the first half of the year the number of live births decreased by 1,082 year-on-year to 21,180, the lowest on record dating back to 1900.
The Finnish population will become increasingly concentrated in the largest urban regions as non-university cities and especially smaller and rural cities will experience weak or very weak demographic development, according to the forecast by MDI.
The consultancy expects population decline to be rapid particularly in Southern Savonia (16.3%), Kainuu (15.1%), Kymenlaakso (11.6%), Satakunta (10.9%) and South Ostrobothnia (9.3%). The regional population will contrastively grow strongly in Uusimaa (16.9%), Åland (10.3%), Pirkanmaa (8.7%) and Southwest Finland (7.0%). The only other regions to experience growth will be Ostrobothnia (0.9%) and North Ostrobothnia (0.7%).
Aro reminded the public broadcasting company that the development has followed the same general pattern since the 1990s, if not the 1970s.
Although immigration has been perceived as a means to compensate for the low birth rate, it is presently expected to contribute chiefly to the development of large urban regions, whereas around three-quarters of municipalities are not to be affected notably.
“The number of deaths being higher than births, immigration would have to be tremendously high to compensate for the population decline,” said Aro.
Central Ostrobothnia, he said, is a microcosm of Finland. The regional population is forecast to fall by 15,000–20,000 by 2040 as what has traditionally been a high birth rate continues to decrease rapidly and as the lack of universities will spur young residents to move especially to Pirkanmaa and Uusimaa.
Seinäjoki, the largest city in Central Ostrobothnia, is nonetheless a positive example.
“Seinäjoki is possibly the best developing non-university city in the whole country. It has been very attractive in terms of internal migration and the development has been strong relative to the ‘cards’ [it has been dealt],” Aro stated to YLE.
This year, immigration will contribute notably to the growth of the city for the first time ever thanks to international students and refugees from Ukraine. The growth of the immigrant population will bring not only tax revenue but also challenges to the regional hub, Erkki Välimäki, the business development director at Seinäjoki, said in an interview with YLE.
A shortage of housing is presently the topmost concern.
“It’s been tough to organise services like early-childhood education and basic education because we’d need more groups and teachers. The equation is nevertheless positive as we’re getting more people, including people who are working.”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT