The population of Eastern Finland has declined at a rapid rate and the decrease is anticipated to continue over coming decades.
Figures from Statistics Finland indicate that between 2015 and 2018 the population in the eastern part of the country - which includes six regions from Kymenlaakso in the south to Kainuu in the north - fell by 20,000. At the end of last year, some 930,000 people lived in the area.
Olli Seppänen from the Regional Council of South Karelia said the decline is driven by a falling birth rate and the trend among working-age residents to move away. “In relative terms, the number of children and young people has fallen the most,” he said.
If the decrease continues at the same pace over the next two decades, Eastern Finland would lose around 130,000 residents by 2040.
“This is a dramatic change. It will create huge challenges in terms of how we can provide services and maintain the current welfare society,” the council's Satu Sikanen said.
“With fewer taxpayers we will have to rethink how to organise our services, while at the same time health care and social costs will increase as the population ages,” she adds.
More jobs needed
Drastic measures are needed to slow down the loss of people living in the area, according to Sikanen.
“We need more new investment and jobs. And in order to get those, transport connections must be improved. It’s very important to have fast rail links, good roads and direct flights to the area,” Sikanen said.
In addition, education and the development of tourism industry would likely create more employment opportunities.
The population of Kainuu in the northeast has not suffered from as severe a drop as its neighbouring regions. The area's economy is driven by forest and mining industries and has grown for the past three years.
In the near future, up to 5,000 new jobs may be created if the planned investments materialise, said Jouni Ponnikas from Kainuu Regional Council.
“In fact, the domestic workforce will not be sufficient. We need workers from abroad,” he added.
Only about 47,000 children were born in Finland last year, the lowest figure ever recorded. However, Finland's population increased by 8,600 people last year due to migration.