Home - Monday 9.12.2002

Half of Finland's regions experience natural net population loss

 Deaths exceed births in many parts of Finland; Uusimaa continues to grow

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In many parts of Finland the number of deaths exceeds the number of births. Of Finland's 20 regions, half have a higher death rate than a birth rate. According to figures currently available, Finnish Lapland will join the group this year.
The opposite trend is most clearly seen in Uusimaa, where the increase in population resulting from the difference in the number of births and deaths is focused.
The migration trend brings young people of child-bearing age to Uusimaa, leaving an ageing population in the provinces. The result is that fewer babies are born to add to the population in the provinces, as proportionally more of the older generation die.

This development started
in the 1980s in southeastern areas. The previous time that the number of deaths exceeded births in the area was during the famine years of the 1860s.
In the 1990s the trend spread to Northern Karelia, Satakunta, Kanta-Häme, Kainuu, and Northern Savo. Southern Ostrobothnia and Päijät-Häme have teetered on the brink since 1997. About 11 regions have at some point dipped below the break-even point.
This year's numbers are advance figures covering the first nine months of 2002. In Uusimaa there had been 4,665 more births than there were deaths in January to September. Also making it over 1,000 in net natural population gain was Northern Ostrobothnia (1,646).
The greatest deficit was the southeastern region of Kymenlaakso, where deaths exceeded births by 438.
In the whole country births outnumbered deaths by 5,161 in the January to September period. The annual average for the years 1996 - 2000 was 9,051.

Timo Aro, coordinator
at the Employment and Economic Development Centre of Satakunta, is writing a doctoral thesis on migration trends. He predicts profound changes in population and regional structures.
Aro says that these structures have already been shaken up by migration trends and concentrations of work places. However, he adds that only the tip of the iceberg is visible now.
Aro claims that there has been little discussion of the whole issue of the consequences of changes in birth rates, because the question is politically too sensitive.

The researcher dares
, "at the risk of being crucified", to ask if public policy should be changed, and the trend toward concentration of policy openly encouraged. He ponders if Finland should be prepared for a future in which most of the Finnish population live in the "golden triangle" in the south of the country in the area marked out by Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere.
In his study of birth rates from 1951 to the present, Aro concludes that it is nearly impossible for areas experiencing negative growth to recover from the trend.
When an area does not have enough young people, the age structure of the population is stilted toward the older generation; purchasing power and tax income decrease, and the service structure deteriorates.
The only theoretical solution that Aro sees is the recruitment of immigrants from abroad. However, even that is unlikely to solve the problem, as even successful areas have to compete for available labour.

Helsingin Sanomat

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