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Helsinki’s population and well-being
At the turn of 2018/19, Helsinki’s population numbered 648,000. During the term of the current City Council, the city’s population has increased by 10,000 residents. The pace of the population growth, however, slowed down particularly in late 2018. At the same time, the population growth of the entire metropolitan area is continuing more or less as before, with the cities of Espoo and Vantaa attracting a large share of the total migration to the region. As a result of plenty of construction, population growth in Helsinki is expected to continue, if a little slower than in recent years.
Of the population growth, almost 70% consists of growth in the non-native population (people with a mother tongue other than Finnish or Swedish). 102,000 Helsinki residents – a little under 16% – speak a foreign language as their mother tongue, and their number has been increasing on average by 5% per year. In recent years, the growth in the number of children under school age is explained by the increase of foreign-language speakers, as the number of Finnish- and Swedish-speakers in this age range has declined. Furthermore, all the growth in the working-age population (18–64-year-olds) has come from people of foreign background. People with a foreign background born in Finland are a rapidly growing group within the population of Helsinki. Most of them are still children and adolescents, but many are just transitioning to working life.
The well-being and health of Helsinki residents are on a good level in many respects. According to several health indicators, people in Helsinki are healthier than those living elsewhere in Finland. The life expectancy of men in Helsinki, in particular, has increased in recent years.
Nonetheless, Helsinki exhibits typical characteristics of urban life in that there are considerable differences between population groups in terms of welfare and health, education, income and employment. Socio-economic health differences in Helsinki are therefore comparatively large. In particular, mortality among the less well educated and the manual workers is considerably greater in Helsinki, especially among those of working age, than in corresponding groups elsewhere in the country.
Every tenth Helsinki resident lives at least occasionally in poverty. In this group, one in five has faced prolonged poverty. The proportion of people on long-term basic income support has, however, decreased slightly. The homeless number more than 2,000, one-quarter of whom have a social or health problem fundamentally hindering their housing prospects. At the greatest risk of exclusion are those facing the accumulation of multiple socio-economic problems.
Economy and employment
Economic growth in Finland and the Helsinki region has been strong. The number of companies and the size of the total workforce have increased strongly in Helsinki in recent years. The number of companies is increasing most rapidly in the financial services sector. In terms of number of employees, the largest sector – and the one that has grown the most – is administrative and support services. Trade remains a large sector, but in recent years its employee numbers have declined considerably.
Employment has developed positively, although the decline in unemployment has slowed slightly. Last year, the number of youth unemployed decreased the most in relative terms.
Disposable household income in Helsinki is greater than the national average, and in recent years it has increased more quickly in the capital than in Finland as a whole. On the other hand, income inequality has also increased in Helsinki more quickly than average.
Social transfers received by households are a little smaller in Helsinki than nationally. In recent years, they have increased at the same pace as the Finnish average. Housing allowances received by households have increased particularly strongly.
Household debt is greatest in Helsinki and, in recent years, has increased considerably faster than the Finnish average. In Helsinki, the proportion of debt to disposable income has also increased much more rapidly than elsewhere in the country. Mortgages constitute almost three-quarters of all debt.
The immigrant unemployment rate is higher than that of the native-born population, and the employment rate is lower. There are notable differences between immigrant groups based on their regions of origin; the lowest employment often occurs among people from countries from which Finland receives many asylum seekers and refugees. Employment is higher among those who have lived longer in Finland. Favourable development is also reflected by increased earned income and homeownership.
Residential and commercial construction activity has been strong, as a large number of dwellings are under construction and the planning reserve has increased. The tenure status distribution for new housing has not turned out quite as intended, and the average surface area of dwellings has decreased. At the same time, the housing situation for special groups has improved and rental housing has become more common. The use of the housing stock has diversified, for example through housing funds, real estate investing by private persons, and housing rental services.
Helsinki is considered a safe city, and surveys show that the safety situation is better than ever before. At the same time, differences in terms of perceived security persist between neighbourhoods, although these differences have narrowed down in the past few years.
In terms of geographical segregation, Helsinki is in a good situation in national and international comparison. Segregation in Helsinki is, in general terms, not pronounced but some worrying signs are evident. According to different indicators, Helsinki’s socio-economically least advantaged districts have diverged somewhat from the city average. In some areas, increase in the population with foreign background has been much faster than average. The degree of segregation varies considerably between people originating from different countries.
In spring 2019, Helsinki was the first city in Europe and the second in the world to report to the UN on its city-level progress towards achieving the Agenda 2030 targets for sustainable development. The first part of the reporting examines how Helsinki City Strategy objectives are linked with the targets of Agenda 2030.
Two-thirds of Helsinki residents report that they are worried about climate change and, according to the Helsinki Security Survey, this question is the greatest single cause of concern for residents. The proportion of those concerned about the climate has increased notably since the previous survey three years ago.
The so-called Climate Partners network, co-established by the City of Helsinki and the local business community, has more than 80 large companies working together with the city to mitigate climate change. There are also signs that the importance of the circular economy is growing in Helsinki and is likely to emerge as a significant factor in the construction sector. In Helsinki, this has been visible in recent years particularly in the systematic coordination of surplus excavation material.
The Carbon-neutral Helsinki 2035 action plan was completed during 2018 and approved by the City Board in December 2018.
Helsinki's present state and development 2019 (pdf)