The city of Helsinki attracts mostly Russian-speaking foreign residents, with a sprinkling of others from Africa and the middle east. Vantaa and the commuter belt host Estonians, while people speaking Asian languages are becoming more common in Espoo and Kauniainen.
The region is expecting internationalisation to continue over the next two decades, and spread to outlying municipalities that have remained relatively homogenous so far. The largest group of foreign language speakers in Helsinki is, at present, composed of those who speak Russian as a mother tongue. Western European languages are the next largest group, with Estonian-speakers the fastest-growing community.
Helsinki is the first stop for many migrants, and can provide a launch pad for them to gradually spread to neighbouring towns and villages. According to the City of Helsinki’s forecast, Estonians especially will start to feel more comfortable in Vantaa and other municipalities around the capital. One of the prime pull factors for those areas is relatively cheap property prices.
Workplace important in deciding where to live
"There is a clear difference in the forecast growth of the Estonian-speaking population in Vantaa and the commuter belt and the other municipalities," says Pekka Vuori, project manager at Helsinki Urban Facts. "You could surmise that precisely these groups integrate quicker into the host population and move to the commuter belt municipalities."
Work also affects choices about where to live. The relatively large Asian population in Espoo can be attributed to the presence of IT sector firms in the area.
Current forecasts show that the largest foreign language group in Helsinki in 2030 will be Russian. In Espoo and Kauniainen Asian languages will be the biggest, and in the commuter belt Estonian will be the most common foreign mother tongue. In Vantaa Russian and Estonian are likely to grow at around the same rate.
Growth in the Helsinki region’s working-age population over the next decade is likely to be down to growth in the number of those with a native language other than Finnish or Swedish. The structure within that group is also changing, with more people born in Finland speaking a different native language.
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