Geographical information systems (GIS) with extensively detailed,
register-based datasets introduce new insights into the process of classifying
urban and rural areas. The independence of administrative borders makes it
possible to recognise and classify areas in greater detail than before. The new
classification system replaces the previously used urban-rural regional
classification system and the trisection of rural areas, which were based on
municipal boundaries. he geographical information-based area classification
system has been created by the Finnish Environment Institute and the
Department of Geography of the University of Oulu.

The classification system is implemented using a nationwide 250 x 250 m grid
of cells. Each cell is categorized into one of seven classes according to the
defined criteria.

Urban areas:
The population centres of urban areas are agglomerations with more than
15 000 residents. Each of these agglomerations consists of a core urban area,
which is then divided into an inner and outer urban area. Surrounding the core
urban area is a peri-urban area.

1. Inner urban area
A compact and densely built area with continuous development.

2. Outer urban area
A dense urban area extending from the boundary of the inner urban area to the
outer edge of the continuous built area.

3. Peri-urban area
A part of the intermediate zone between urban and rural, which is directly
linked to an urban area.

Rural areas:
Different rural types are delineated for the areas that have not been identified
as urban. The boundary between urban and rural areas is not unambiguous.
The classification framework has been designed to be flexible, which makes
it possible to identify an intermediate zone between urban and rural that can
be examined as its own whole. This can be done, for instance, by combining
two classes, the peri-urban area and rural areas close to urban areas.

4. Local centres in rural areas
Population centres located outside urban areas.

5. Rural areas close to urban areas
Areas with a rural character that are functionally connected and close to urban

6. Rural heartland areas
Rural areas with intensive land use, with a relatively dense population and a
diverse economic structure at the local level.

7. Sparsely populated rural areas
Sparsely populated areas with dispersed small settlements that are located
at a distance from each other. Most of the land areas are forested.

Statistics using the definition

Validity of the definition

  • Valid until (31 December 2078)

Source organisation

  • SYKE