26 November 2022

The change in the demographic structure of Helsinki

The Capitol of Finland - Helsinki - is not a huge city but rather a relatively big town with its ca. 660 000 inhabitants. It means that approximately 12 percent of Finns live in their Capitol.

According to current predictions, the population of Helsinki will grow up to 700 000 people in the following six years. But that will not be due to a baby-boom or even Finns moving from countryside, but mostly via immigration from abroad, which will be responsible of two thirds of the increasing population.

Even today, Helsinki may be considered somewhat multicultural town as only about 83 percent of people speak Finnish or Swedish (the official languages of the country) as their first language. Russian is the most common foreign language and is spoken by almost three percent of the population. That is followed by Somali, Estonian, Arabic, and English speakers with 1.8, 1.6, 1,3 and 1,1 percent share of the population. 

The figures above indicate, that most speakers of foreign languages have moved to Helsinki to work in Finland (e.g. Russian, Estonian and English speakers). In other words, they are contributing to the welfare of the city dwellers and whole country. 

However, in 2021 the number of people speaking domestic languages moving out from Helsinki was higher than the amount of those moving in. The reasons are unclear but may have to do with increasing possibilities of remote working, COVID-19 pandemic or increased violence in the streets of Helsinki. 

The big question in the future will be, what kind of immigrants Helsinki will attract in future. Will people move into the city due to its working possibilities or are they only looking for the benefits of the relatively liberal social welfare-system of Finland. And - as has been seen during the last few years - will they instead of working contribute to the criminal records. And thus reduce the quality of life in the town?
The answer cannot be provided yet, but it is clear that the immigration policy of the next Government of Finland will direct the development. The key question to be decided by voters in spring 2023 is, whether Finland will support possibilities for private enterprises to hire highly educated foreign workforce or if it rather opens Finland´s borders to masses of uneducated asylum seekers from the developing world. 

Interesting though, according to recent news, almost one third of Ukrainians - who escaped Russian aggression - have plans to live rest of their lives in Finland. They are hard working, and have not caused similar problems as people from Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan who looked for protection in 2015 using the war in Syria as an excuse. 

Whatever will be the outcome on the politics of the next Government in 2023-2027, its will have a major impact on the future of the Capitol area of the country. In the best case, Helsinki may in future - largely due to the positive contribution of immigrants - be seen as an excellent option for people looking for sufficient income and decent living in a safe environment - but in the worst case the Capitol may develop towards a town with poor street safety but high taxes to support living of increasing non-working population. 

These two scenarios will provide the road make to the future of Helsinki - and ultimately the whole of Finland. Therefore, elections of the Finnish Parliament in 2023 are more important than normally. And voters should use their right to give their support to candidates only after a serious consideration.

Previous thoughts on the same topic:
Finland after the Russian war in Ukraine

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