Families in Finland today

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In this blog post, we discuss what families in Finland today are like. We’ll first give some statistics on Finnish families. Then we will turn our gaze to families with children and especially talk about birth rates and desires to have or not have kids. 

This discussion is based on a recent data release by Statistics Finland, tweets by Marjut Pietiläinen, and previously published studies by the Family Federation of Finland, especially by their Anna Rotkirch

Previously, we’ve discussed Finnish families for example in our blog about marriages and divorces in Finland

Stats on families in Finland today

Statistics Finland reports at the end of 2021 there were 1 465 978 families in Finland. Families here are those who live under the same roof. The 2021 number is 1 675 families less than the year before.

72 % of Finnish residents live together as families. That means 3 982 792 residents living together with others as a family. This is 14 271 residents less than the year before. The most common family type in Finland is a married couple or a couple living in a registered partnership that doesn’t have children. 

The situation at the end of 2021 is markedly different than, for example, in 1990. Then, 82 % of Finnish residents lived as families. The most common family type then was a married couple with children. Also, the average size of families has gone down from 1990. Then, the average size was 3 persons. Now it’s 2.72.

Families in Finland with kids

37 % of Finnish residents belong to a family that includes children. In 2021, there were 553 613 such families in Finland. This is 2 439 families fewer than the year before. 

Marjut Pietiläinen adds on Twitter that most commonly parents in these families are married. She also adds, however, that the share of married parents varies in different areas in Finland. For example, in Central Ostrobothnia 63 % of families with children are of married couples. In Åland, their share of all families with children is 46 %. 

43 % of families only have one child. 39 % have two and 18 % have more than three kids. On average, Finnish families have 1.83 kids. 

9 % of families are blended families. These are families where one of the adults is not the parent of the child. This categorization by Statistics Finland only includes heterosexual families. These families have more kids as the average number of children in these families is 2.07. 60 % of kids living in blended families are those of the wife, 11 % are those of the husband, and 29 % are those of both, so kids born into the blended family. 

So, it is clear that there are fewer families in Finland, these families less often have children, and if they do, they tend to have fewer children now than in 1990. 

The Family Federation of Finland has provided information about families in Finland since 1941. Their publications allow for a closer look at the reasons for families in Finland today getting smaller.  

Ideal family size in Finland

The Family Federation of Finland has studied Finnish families from many aspects. One of the things they’ve tracked with surveys since 1997 is the ideal family size.

They report that up to around 2015, the ideal number of children in Finland was 2.3-2.5 kids. There were only a few respondents who said they didn’t want any kids at all. A surprisingly large share of respondents (35 – 40 %), instead, said they wanted three or more children.

However, in the 2015 survey numbers, they saw a significant shift. 14.8 % of respondents to that year’s survey said they didn’t want any kids. The ideal number of children also dropped below 2 that year. The share of respondents wanting three or more children also came down. It was now at 30 %. 

The results of the 2018 survey didn’t show a significant bounce back to the previous trends. Instead, the share of respondents not wanting any children at all stayed over 10 %. Of respondents who were 20-29 years old at the time 24 % reported that they didn’t want any children. Ten years prior, this share stood at 5.5 %. 

This is also reflected in numbers related to actual births. Throughout the 2010s, total fertility rates in Finland decreased from 1.73 in 2000 to 1.46 in 2021. In 2019, we saw the lowest total fertility rate of 1.35 ever recorded in Finland. 

A brief look behind the numbers

In an article published in 2020, Anna Rotkirch look at these trends more closely and discussed the decision-making process behind and conditions for deciding to try for a child in Finland. 

She explains that several possible explanations have been proposed for the decline in Finnish fertility rates. These include, for example, the effects of the 1990s recession and individualism.

Based on the analysis of the afore-mentioned 2018 Family barometer survey results, Rotkirch and her colleagues have suggested that uncertainty and lifestyle issues play a role in this. 

With uncertainty, they refer to the worries respondents to that survey expressed concerning, for example, their financial or work situation, unfinished education by themselves or their partners, and ability to combine childcare with work. Lifestyle issues, in turn, refer to the respondents’ unwillingness to change their current lifestyle.

In the 2018 survey, the Family Federation of Finland didn’t specifically ask about the respondents’ attitudes toward climate change and its relation to their attitude towards reproduction. The written answers by some respondents, however, refer to it. These references suggest to Rotkirch that concerns about climate change do intertwine with other topics of concern. This adds to the reluctance to have children. 

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