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Nation's personal ID number system to change, but not by much

An ambitious proposal to completely revamp Finland's ID scheme has been trimmed down to just a few updates.

Kuvassa on ajokortti.
The basic format of personal ID numbers will not be changed. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP
Eddy Hawkins

Finland's Ministry of Finance announced on Friday that work is moving ahead on reforming the nation's system of personal ID numbers but not to the extent as laid out in a controversial working group proposal.

In 2017, the Ministry set up a working group to look into updating personal identity numbers. This year, that group turned in a proposal for a new ID number that would not indicate the individual's age, date of birth, or gender, as ID numbers in the current system do.

“The working group's proposal was ambitious. However, the proposed comprehensive overhaul to change the format of the personal identity number would have entailed significant costs. At least in the current economic situation, such a move is not justified,” Minister of Local Government Sirpa Paatero (SDP) stated in a press release on Friday.

The banking and insurance industry interest group, Finance Finland, has estimated that system changes required by the proposed comprehensive reform would cost billions of euros in the public and private sectors.

Running out of numbers

In the current system, introduced in 1964, the first six digits indicate the ID-holder's date of birth and the three-number series that appears after the birth date identify the ID-holder's gender. Odd numbers are men, even numbers are women.

The most urgent reason for the changes now being planned is that the stock of available ID numbers is running low. Finland hasn't quite run out of unique ID numbers just yet, but because of the way the current system is set up, in theory, it could happen. The answer now is to expand numerical sequences by inserting dashes.

According to the Ministry, the reform also includes measures to make it easier for people moving to Finland for work to get a Finnish ID number that will then replace other types of identification codes issued by various authorities.

No more gendered IDs

One of the working groups suggestions, the elimination of gender-specific ID numbers will, however, move ahead, according to the Finance Ministry.

This change is planned for implementation no later than in 2027 at which time ID's will be issued in numerical order, regardless of gender.

However, the basic format of the ID will not be changed.

Some experts and interest groups asked for feedback on the plan have said they can envisage problems with the elimination of a gender marker. This was especially true for the social and health sectors, as well as and the insurance sector where information on gender is important.

The gradual reform of Finland's personal ID number system system is expected to start next year.

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