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Women flee Finnish countryside, some regions' female populations down by a third

Provincial Finland is losing women to the cities.

The town of Hartola in southern Finland has lost more than half its young women since the turn of the millennium. Image: Mika Moksu / Yle

Several Finnish regions have lost a large proportion of their young women in a short space of time, according to figures from Statistics Finland.

In Kainuu and South Savo, the number of women aged between 15 and 44 has dropped by a third since 2001. In Kymenlaakso and Satakunta the reduction is around a fifth, and similar but less severe drops are recorded elsewhere in the country too.

"The change has been pretty steep in a short space of time," said Timo Aro of the regional development consultancy MDI.

Young people have always been keen to move, but population flows have grown in the last two decades. They are also less likely to return to their former homes in the provinces.

That has a knock-on effect on birth rates. Even an increase in the average number of children each woman has in the provinces will not significantly boost overall births if the number of women has fallen so dramatically.

Timo Aro says decision-makers have not yet paid sufficient attention to the trend.

"There has not been an awakening to this," said Aro. "In Finland we think about one thing at a time, whether it is urbanisation, reducing birth rates or a ‘birthing drive’. It’s about time we woke up to young women’s and also young men’s migration."

Southern cities winners

Only two regions in Finland showed an increase in the number of young women residents. Pirkanmaa, which contains the country’s second city Tampere, and Uusimaa, which hosts Helsinki, both have more women now than they did in 2001.

In the autonomous island province of Åland, the number of women has remained steady. Everywhere else, it’s fallen.

The university towns of Oulu, Jyväskylä and Turku all have more women than they did in 2001, but those women’s desire to have children has dropped and all three towns have fewer births than they did in 2001.

Even some regions that have larger populations now have fewer women than they did in 2001. For instance Päijät-Häme and Kanta-Häme have more people overall but some ten percent fewer young women.

Nationwide, the number of young women has dropped by 2.7 percent since 2001.

Finding solutions to the problem is difficult, according to Aro.

"If nothing is done, the situation will get worse in the future," said Aro. "One big question is immigration. It’s difficult to find other balancing mechanisms in the long run than increasing birth rates and immigration."

"They are both sensitive subjects, about which it is difficult to have any kind of society-wide discussion," said Aro.