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Survey: Finland's Swedish speakers more likely to emigrate

Swedish-speaking Finns are three times more likely to move abroad than their Finnish-speaking counterparts.

Tukholma Drottninggatan
Most emigrants from Finland to Sweden are looking for better professional opportunities. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Not only do members of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority more actively move abroad, they are also significantly more inclined to make the move permanent, according to a new study by the Migration Institute of Finland.

For Swedish speakers, the Nordic region, and especially Sweden, is regarded as a "home market" where it is easy to relocate and take up residence. Sweden is often seen as offering better job and social opportunities for this segment of the population than are available in Finland.

"Emigrants view Sweden as having more opportunities. There may be a better job, a better salary, a more accommodating atmosphere. In brief one can say that people move for work, studies, because of family ties and professional goals," says Project Director Magnus Enlund of the Migration Institute of Finland.

Atmosphere and traditions

The importance attached to social atmosphere came as a surprise to researchers. This means, they now say, that people who emigrate often have a negative image of Finland, and for example, Finnish attitudes towards immigrants, the Swedish-speaking minority, and the increasingly competitive nature of society.

During the 17 years reviewed in the study, 2016 was the peak year for emigration.

"That may be due to a deterioration in the general atmosphere in Finland and the government's education budget cuts. When it levelled off again in 2017, the cause may have been a general improvement in the standard of living and an economic upswing," Enlund notes.

One more important reason to emigrate is the lure of adventure. In addition, Swedish-speaking Finns have traditionally been active emigrants, a fact that may lower the threshold to making a move.

"People have been emigrating to America since the mid-19th century and to Sweden since the last war," Enlund points out.

Sweden vs the rest of the world

"Swedish-speakers have an [language] advantage in Norway and even in Denmark, too, but they also move to the UK, Germany, Spain, Estonia and Belgium. According to our survey, one of the key reasons cited is the chance to reach one's goals in a big city that provides more opportunities," Enlund explains.

Between 2000 and 2017, just over 21,000 Swedish-speaking Finns moved to Sweden. A further 1,900 emigrated to Norway, about 1,000 to Denmark, and nearly 5,000 to other EU countries. During that same period, 33,000 people whose mother tongue is Finnish moved to Sweden, 9,000 to Norway, some 6,000 to Denmark and over 58,000 to other EU countries.

Generally speaking, Sweden is overwhelmingly the single most popular destination for Swedish-speaking emigrants, while other parts of the world have more appeal for Finnish speakers moving abroad.

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