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Demographics of Finland

Finland numbers some 5.3 million inhabitants and has an average population density of 17 inhabitants per square kilometre. This makes it, after Norway and Iceland, the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Population distribution is very uneven: the population is concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain. About 60 % live in towns and cities, with one million living in Helsinki Metropolitan Area alone. In Arctic Lapland, on the other hand, there are only 2 people to every square kilometre.

The earliest inhabitants of most of the land area that makes up today's Finland and Scandinavia were in all likehood hunter-gatherers whose closest successors in modern terms would probably be the Sami people (formerly known as the Lapps). There are 4,500 of them living in Finland today and they are recognised as a minority with their own language. They have been living north of the Arctic Circle for more than 7,000 years now. During the late 19th and 20th century there was significant emigration, particularly from rural areas to Sweden and North America, while most immigrants into Finland itself come from other European countries.

The official languages are Finnish and Swedish, the latter being the native language of about five per cent of the Finnish population. There is a historical and a political explanation for the status of Swedish as an official language. From the 13th to the early 19th century Finland was a part of the Kingdom of Sweden. The status of the language has remained to these days as the Swedish speaking minority had a relatively high degree of power in Finland compared to its size. The Swedish-speakers are known as Swedish-speaking Finns (finlandssvenskar in Swedish, suomenruotsalaiset in Finnish).

With 84 percent of Finns in its congregation, the Lutheran Church is the largest in the country.

Language distribution

Population of Finland, 1750–2000
Year Population Year Population
1750 421,000 1880 2,060,800
1760 491,000 1890 2,380,100
1770 561,000 1900 2,655,900
1780 663,000 1910 2,943,400
1790 705,600 1920 3,147,600
1800 832,700 1930 3,462,700
1810 863,300 1940 3,695,617
1820 1,177,500 1950 4,029,803
1830 1,372,100 1960 4,446,222
1840 1,445,600 1970 4,598,336
1850 1,636,900 1980 4,787,778
1860 1,746,700 1990 4,998,478
1870 1,768,800 2000 5,181,000
Finnish people speak the Finnish language, which the dominant language and is spoken almost everywhere in the country.

Significant populations of Swedish-speakers are found only in coastal areas, from Ostrobothnia to the southern coast, and in the archipelago of Åland. Several rural communities on the western and southern coast have Swedish majorities. Coastal cities, however, are majority Finnish-speaking, with a few small towns as exceptions. There are very few Swedish-speakers in the inland.

Generally speaking, Finnish language usage is still expanding in relative and absolute terms due to the slow but steady language switching of the Swedish-speaking population, natural population growth, and immigration. The immigrant population is growing faster than the general population, both naturally and by immigration, and immigrant minorities will become more significant in the future. Currently, the percentage of immigrants is one of the smallest in Europe.

Concerning native languages, the Finnish-speaking population has a comparatively high natural growth rate (compared to other EU countries), while the death rate of the Swedish-speaking population is higher than its birthrate. It is predicted that these rates will even out in 2012 and that the absolute size of the Swedish-speaking population will remain constant, while its percentage of the total population will diminish as the total population grows. Politically, the result is that local Swedish majorities and dominance are diminishing. Most Swedish speakers lived in monolingually (more than 94%) Swedish areas in 1880, but the figure had dropped to 14% in 2002. However, 50% of Swedish speakers still live in communities in which they form the majority and exercise considerable political power.


At the end of 2007.

  • Population: 5,300,484
  • Life expectancy at birth:
    • male: 75.8 years
    • female: 82.8 years
  • Total fertility rate: 1.83 children born/woman (2007 est.)

Age structure

At the end of 2006.

  • 0-14 years: 17.1% (male 459,955; female 441,226)
  • 15-64 years: 66.5% (male 1,772,605; female 1,734,452)
  • 65 years and over: 16.5% (male 351,182; female 517,535)

Rates per 1 000 mean population in 2006.

  • Population growth: 4.6
  • Live births: 11.8
  • Deaths: 9.1
  • Net migration: 1.9

Total Births(2007): 58,729

Total Deaths(2007): 49,080


Finland became the first country in Europe to grant women the right to vote in 1906, and the first country in the world where women could run for office. In 2000, Finns elected their first female president, Tarja Halonen, who won a second term in 2006. Although substantial progress has been made, the roles of Finnish women--in the political, professional, and social spheres--continue to evolve.

Ethnic groups

It is a controversial issue whether the Swedish-speaking Finns represent a distinct ethnicity. Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to list them as Swedish immigrants.

Russians in Finland come from two major waves. About 5,000 originate from a population that immigrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Finland was a grand duchy of Imperial Russia. Another consisted of those who immigrated after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A significant catalyst was the right of return, based on President Koivisto's initiative that people of Ingrian ancestry would be allowed to immigrate to Finland.


At the end of 2006.


At the end of 2006.


  • Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • Total population: 100% (2000 est.)


  • noun: Finn(s)
  • adjective: Finnish


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