2. Entirely foreign-language speaking families still rare

In 87 per cent of all families, the only parent or both parents are Finnish-speaking. Correspondingly, four per cent of families are entirely Swedish-speaking (3.8%). Families where one spouse is Swedish-speaking and the other Finnish-speaking account for three per cent of all families. Combinations of Finnish and Swedish-speakers with other languages can be found in three per cent of all families. Families where both spouses or the only parent are foreign-language speakers number 46,500, which equals three per cent of all families.

In clearly more cases Swedish-speaking men have Finnish-speaking spouses than Swedish-speaking women Finnish-speaking spouses. The number of purely Swedish-speaking couples is only 4,500 higher than that of Finnish and Swedish-speaking couples.

Altogether, 26,000 Finnish or Swedish-speaking men are married to or cohabiting with a foreign-language speaking woman. The corresponding figure for women is 20,900. Marriages with foreign-language speakers have increased by 2,500.

Table 4. Families speaking Finnish, Swedish or other language in 1990–2012

Mies/vaimo suomen tai muunkielinen Year
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012
Finnish speaking man and finnish speaking woman 1 088 742 1 081 473 1 089 232 1 105 316 1 114 828 1 115 178 1 114 397
Finnish speaking man and swedish speaking woman 16 544 16 876 17 394 17 904 18 337 18 389 18 463
Finnish speaking woman and swedish speaking man 22 734 22 822 23 445 24 218 24 552 24 658 24 696
Finnish speaking man and foreign speaking woman 4 020 7 636 11 094 16 062 21 772 23 102 24 419
Finnish speaking woman and foreign speaking man 5 951 8 679 10 236 13 181 17 441 18 450 19 423
Finnish speaking mother/father 162 209 174 554 174 861 166 741 161 302 160 179 159 373
Swedish speaking man and swedish speaking woman 53 348 50 845 49 198 48 190 47 881 47 784 47 633
Swedish speaking man and foreign speaking woman 300 483 655 982 1 434 1 521 1 623
Swedish speaking woman and foreign speaking man 410 597 678 943 1 261 1 319 1 396
Swedish speaking mother/father 8 489 8 871 8 609 8 147 7 953 7 877 7 775
Foreign speaking man and foreign speaking woman 1 832 7 425 11 668 16 944 27 638 30 439 33 826
Foreign speaking mother/father 762 2 709 4 893 7 374 10 674 11 674 12 709

2.1 Russian-speaking families commonest among foreign-language speaking families

The largest foreign-language group in Finland is made up of Russian-speakers. At the end of 2012, there were 12,800 such Russian-speaking families in Finland in which the native language of the only parent or both parents was Russian. The number of families where either one of the spouses is Russian-speaking is slightly lower at 11,600. The number of Russian-speaking families is some 1,400 higher than in the year before.

The number of Russian-speaking one-parent families is 3,800, which is 16 per cent of all Russian-speaking families. The number has grown by over one hundred from the previous year. Among Russian-speakers, one-parent families are slightly more common than one-parent families are on the level of the whole country (12%). Of Russian-speaking one-parent families, 96 per cent are formed by mothers and children, while this is so for 83 per cent of all families.

The most common language combination among the Russian-speaking families is one where the husband and the wife speak Russian. During 2012, the number of such couples grew by around 700. In 1990, there were only 300 Russian-speaking couples in Finland, today their number has gone up to 9,000.

The second most common language combination in Russian-speaking families is a Finnish-speaking man and a Russian-speaking wife (8,000).

It is still rare for a Finnish-speaking woman to have a Russian-speaking spouse. However, their number (1,400) has more than quadrupled from 1990.

2.2 More than one-half of families with Somali citizens are formed by mothers and children

In only five per cent (73,100 families) of all families in Finland at least one of the spouses or the only parent is a foreign citizen. There were only 12,500 such families in Finland in 1990 and as many as 36,000 in 2000. In the past year, the number of such families has increased by 4,300. The number of families in which both the husband and wife are foreign nationals grew the most.

In the early 1990s, the most common combination in families of foreign citizens was one where the wife was a Finnish citizen and the husband a foreign citizen. The number of foreign families in which the wife was a foreign national and the husband a Finnish national was the largest at the beginning of the 2000s. The most common combination in families of foreign citizens is still one where the man is a Finnish citizen and the wife a foreign citizen. In 2012, the number of families with two foreign spouses, 21,500, surpassed the number of families were the man is a foreign citizen and the wife is a Finnish citizen (21,300). (Figure 3). No distinction is made between married and cohabiting couples in these statistics.

In families, where at least one of the spouses or the only parent is a foreign citizen, the largest group of foreign citizens is families with Russian citizens, 11,800. There are nearly as many families with Estonian citizens, 11,700.

Entirely foreign families, i.e. families where the only parent or both spouses are foreign citizens, total 29,700. There were 5,600 families where the only parent or both spouses are Russian citizens at the end of 2012. There were 6,900 entirely Estonian families of which one-third were families consisting of mother and children only. The number of Estonian families increased by over 1,200 from the year before.

Families of two Somali citizens or with one Somali parent numbered around 1,000. The number of these families grew by around 40 families from the previous year. More than one-half of the families of Somali citizens are families of mother and children only. Many of the Somali families that moved to Finland in the past have already lived in the country long enough to have been granted Finnish citizenship. On the basis of persons' mother tongue, there are 2,200 families where both spouses or one parent were originally Somali citizens.

Figure 3. Families of foreign citizens in 1990, 2002 and 2012

Figure 3. Families of foreign citizens in 1990, 2002 and 2012

2.3 Women's and men's foreign-born spouses from different countries

An examination of countries of birth gives the best picture of the foreign spouses of Finns. However, it should be borne in mind that some originally Finnish citizens are also born abroad. Finnish-born men have 35,600 foreign-born spouses. The number has grown by 1,400 from the year before.

Finnish-born women have 30,700 foreign-born spouses; the number having grown by 1,100. Today, Finnish men more often have spouses with foreign background than Finnish women.

The foreign-born spouses of Finnish men and women come from a variety of countries. The men's spouses have mainly been born in the neighbouring countries in west, east and south alike. Those born in the area of the former Soviet Union cannot be separated into Russians or Estonians (or those born in other republics of the former Soviet Union), because even the Estonians' country of birth is mostly the Soviet Union and a large number of the spouses from Estonia had already moved to Finland before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Finnish men have 11,500 spouses who were born in the former Soviet Union, Russia or Estonia, and 8,400 spouses who were born in Sweden. Spouses born in Thailand numbered 3,900, and their number has increased by 300 from the year before. The next most common countries of birth for the spouses were China, Germany, the Philippines, the United States, Poland and Great Britain.

Women's foreign-born spouses come from a larger variety of countries than men's spouses. After the 8,500 Swedish-born spouses, the second largest group of foreign-born spouses of women were also those born in the areas of the former Soviet Union. Husbands born in the former Soviet Union, Russia and Estonia number 2,600, which is approximately 150 more than in the year before. The next most frequent countries of birth of Finnish women' foreign spouses are Great Britain, Germany, Turkey and the USA. The total number of countries in which spouses of at least 100 Finnish women were born is 51. The corresponding number for Finnish men is 36.

Figure 4A. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born men by country of birth in 2012

Figure 4A. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born men by country of birth in 2012

Figure 4B. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born women by country of birth in 2012

Figure 4B. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born women by country of birth in 2012

Source: Population and Cause of Death Statistics, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Marjut Pietiläinen 09 1734 2798, Timo Nikander 09 1734 3250, vaesto.tilasto@stat.fi

Director in charge: Riitta Harala


Updated 13.1.2014

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. Annual Review 2012, 2. Entirely foreign-language speaking families still rare . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 17.11.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2012/02/perh_2012_02_2013-11-22_kat_002_en.html