One assertion that one often hears about Swedish-speaking Finns is that we are dying out, caught in a relentless downwards spiral of decline, and that somehow inevitably we will eventually disappear. Whilst times may feel increasingly hard for the Swedish language in Finland, such assertions are false.
In fact, according to the latest statistics the population of Swedish-speakers in Finland is increasing. Today we are slightly more than 290 000 and according to a population prognosis, we will pass 300 000 in around 15 years time. This is clear from an article in Hufvudstadsbladet. The newspaper spoke with Fjalar Finnäs who has recently produced a statistical report on the situation of Swedish-speaking Finns. Finnäs is a professor of demography at Åbo akademi university.
Until 2005, it was true that we were in decline but today more Swedish-speakers are being born than are dying. The reason for the previous decline was that so many Swedish-speaking Finns emigrated to Sweden during the 1950s and 1960s. It’s well known that many Finns moved to Sweden during this period, but it is often overlooked that Swedish-speakers were massively over-represented amongst them. Some estimates state that as many as 25% of all the Finns that moved to Sweden during this period were Swedish-speaking (a much higher proportion than amongst Finland’s population).
Another reason why the population is today increasing is an increasing tendency amongst mixed language group couples to register their children as Swedish-speaking rather than Finnish-speaking.
As a proportion of the population, Swedish-speaking Finns have decreased to around 5,4% of the population. The number of Finnish-speaking Finns has also decreased as a percentage of Finland’s total population as the number of speakers of other languages has increased.
Swedish-speakers on average live longer, get divorced less often, have lower unemployment and retire early on sickness pensions less often than the Finnish-speaking population. This also helps the demographic situation of Swedish-speaking Finns.