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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Population: demographic situation, languages and religions


1.Political, social and economic background and trends

1.3Population: demographic situation, languages and religions

Last update: 16 June 2022

There are about 5.5 million inhabitants in Finland. The land area is 338 000 square kilometers. The average population density is 18 inhabitants per km2. However, it varies a lot; from 0,2 in some areas in the north to almost 3 000 in Helsinki, the capital.

The population is mainly concentrated in the south of the country, particularly in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The area accounts for about 27 % of the entire population, approximately 1.5 million people. In all, in Finland there are nine cities with more than 100 000 inhabitants.

One of the key challenges for the society in future is adapting to demographic changes, particularly the aging of the population. The proportion of the working-age population is decreasing and a shortage of labour is foreseen.

According to the population forecast of Statistics Finland the Finnish population is projected to turn to a decline in 2031.

The latest population projection by Statistic Finland has predicted that in 2050, the population will be approximately 100 000 lower than now days.

According to Statistics Finland's latest population projection, if the birth rate remains at the current level there will be no regions in Finland where births exceed deaths in 15 years.


Table 1.1. Population trends 1950 - 2070, by age group as a percentage

Age group






0 – 14






15 – 64






65 –






Source: Statistics Finland



Employment/unemployment rates

According to  Finland’s Labour Force Survey there were 220 000 unemployed persons in February 2021. It is 35 000 more than the year before. 

In February 2021, the employment rate for aged 15 to 64 was 70 %; the rate of men was 69.8 % and women 70.3 %. 

The number of employed persons was 2 481 000. Compared to the year earlier there were 6 000 less employed people - 8 000 less employed men and 2 000 less employed women – and 35 000 more unemployed people.   

The unemployment rate was 8.1 per cent; the number of unemployed men was 129 000 and women 91 000.


Employment/unemployment 2018/10 – 2021/02 persons aged 15–64






Employment rate





Unemployment rate





The data comply with the ILO/EU definition.


Migrant population

The population with a migrant background can be examined in statistics in several different ways in Finland. Statistics Finland publishes annually statistics on the population based on

  • citizenship

  • country of birth

  • language 

The size of the target group varies based on which of these background variables are included. Different groups are partly overlapping.

Approximately 7.3 % of the entire Finnish population was immigrant background in 2018. The largest groups are from Estonia and Russia. More than one third are from European Union countries.

There was a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers in 2015 as everywhere in Europe.  There were 32 000 asylum seekers in that year. The numbers have decreased since that and Finland has received over 5 000 asylum seekers annually.



The official languages in Finland are Finnish and Swedish. The shares of speakers in 2020 were the following

  • Finnish 86.9 %

  • Swedish 5.2 %

  • other languages 7.8 %

(Statistics Finland 2021 Population )

Although the Swedish-speaking population is mainly concentrated on the southern and western coasts, Finnish and Swedish are equal languages in the whole country when dealing with the authorities.

In addition, there are other languages in Finland whose users’ rights are laid down in law. The Sami languages are the languages of the indigenous population of Finland. The Sami-speaking population lives in the northernmost part of Finland, Lapland. Finnish Romani, Finnish sign language, Finland-Swedish sign language and Karelian are autochthonous languages that have a long history in Finland.

The official languages are languages of instruction in educational institutions at all educational levels. Usually the institutions have either Finnish or Swedish as their languages of instruction. However, there are upper secondary vocational institutions and universities which are bilingual. Sami is the language of instruction in some basic education, upper secondary general and vocational institutions in the Sami-speaking areas.

The share of the population speaking other languages has increased steadily and more than 150 different languages are spoken in Finland. At the end of 2020 the number of foreign-language speakers was 7.8 % of the population. The largest groups of foreign-language speakers are those whose native language is Russian, Estonian, Arabic, English and Somali.

The share of population with immigrant background varies in different parts of Finland. The highest proportion 15.9 % was in Åland Islands in 2019. Åland islands is an autonomous archipelago province and the smallest region of Finland located in the Baltic Sea. 

The share of population with immigrant background is high also in southern Finland, including the capital area where 14.2 % of the population is foreign-language speakers. The lowest figure of foreign-language speakers is 2.4 per cent in South Ostrobothnia. 



Finland has a Freedom of Religion Act, which guarantees the right to practice any religion, provided that the law and/or common decency are not violated.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church have a special status among religious denominations as they have taxation rights. Clear majority of the population are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In 2017 the shares of the population belonging to religious denominations were following

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church 69.8%

  • Orthodox Church 1.1 %

  • other religious denomination 1.7 %

  • no religious denomination 27.4%

(Source: Statistics Finland 2019)

Pupils and students in basic and general upper secondary education have the right and obligation to instruction in religion. The instruction is not denominational, religion is primarily approached as a cultural issue. The main issues are familiarity with one’s own religion and tolerance towards other religions and ways of thinking.

Pupils or students not participating in teaching of the country’s main religion are entitled to instruction in their own religion, if there are at least three students in the group. Students who do not belong to any religious denomination have a right to instruction in ethics.