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Foreign-language community growing faster than expected in Helsinki area

Population growth in the capital region may in future be almost entirely due to foreign-language speakers.

Ihmisiä Tikkurilan keskustassa marraskuussa 2018.
Vantaa is set to become the area's most linguistically diverse municipality. Image: Elise Tykkyläinen / Yle

The number of people with foreign native languages is growing quickly in the Helsinki region. Their share of the local population is set to nearly double by 2035.

According to a forecast released by the City of Helsinki on Thursday, the proportion of foreign and foreign-language-speaking people in the area will climb from the current level of 14 percent to around 25 percent.

Researchers have raised the projected rate of growth since the previous prognosis was released a few years ago.

According to the new prediction, there will be nearly 440,000 native speakers of foreign languages living in the region by 2035. Throughout the capital region, up to one third of all children are forecast to speak a foreign tongue at home. However more than two out of three of them will have been born in Finland.

Vantaa most linguistically diverse

Helsinki's northern neighbour, Vantaa, is on track to become the most cosmopolitan of the 14 municipalities in the greater Helsinki area. There one in three people will have a native language other than Finnish, Swedish or Sámi in 2035.

Vantaa's foreign-language demographic is expected to triple from its current level of just under 40,000. In neighbouring Espoo and Helsinki the number is likely to double. Those cities now have about 50,000 and 100,000 foreign speakers respectively.

Beyond these 'big three' cities, foreign-language expansion in the region's smaller municipalities is expected to occur more slowly. In the outer municipalities, foreign language speakers are expected to make up just over 10 percent of the population. These areas will particularly be home to immigrants from Estonia and the other Baltic states, while Russian speakers will be more highly concentrated in Vantaa.

The largest language groups overall will be of Middle Eastern, North African and East Asian origin. There will be slower growth among those from the sub-Saharan and Western European language groups. Meanwhile in Helsinki, the population of Baltic language speakers may actually shrink.

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