Two data sets appear to confirm that more babies are being born in Finland after a long-running downward trend.
According to advance data from Statistics Finland, just over 19,000 babies were born between January and May this year, 609 more than during the same period last year.
Meanwhile statistics from municipal hospital districts indicate that births rose 1.9 percent between January and April this year compared to the same period last year. However there are large variations in the data depending on location.
In Kainuu, eastern Finland, births increased by 18.5 percent, however in southwest Finland births contracted by nearly 21 percent. The Helsinki University hospital district (HUS) reported an increase of 6.7 percent in the number of newborns during the January to April period.
Anna Rotkirch, research professor with the Family Federation of Finland, said that there has been a clear change in direction.
"Finland’s birth rate has been declining on a monthly basis for 10 years. There has now been a small turnaround. What is surprising is that it is happening only now. The long decline has been quite unexpected. It was to be expected that it would end some time. The change is now very clear in that it was hundreds and not dozens more," Rotkirch noted.
One of the lowest birth rates in the world
The researcher, who is currently conducting a demographic survey, said that Finland still has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. She added that there are roughly 15 countries with such low overall fertility rates.
Rotkirch said that birth rates tend to be tracked by annual rather than monthly statistics, since like stock prices, they vary widely on a short-term basis. However she said that it is possible to draw some conclusions from the available data.
"Babies are being born primarily to women aged 29 -- 31 years. We can assume that many are first-time mothers. It is the most common age for motherhood. Three-quarters of the reason for a declining birth rate is that there are fewer firstborns."
"This may suggest that the economy is improving. There must also be more public discussion about this so that 30-year-olds are more likely to have a first child than say, five years ago," Rotkirch added, noting that very little is known about the reasons for the increase in the number of newborns.
However she said that it is easier to understand rising birth rates than declining births.
Finland is a good country for families, the people are happy and the economy has been performing better than in previous years."
Rotkirch noted that the timing of the births could be tied to major sporting events. Finland won its third ice hockey world championship in Slovakia last May, nine months before some births in February.