2. Just three per cent of all families are entirely foreign-language speakers

In 86 per cent of all families the only parent or both parents are Finnish-speaking. Correspondingly, four per cent of families are entirely Swedish-speaking (3.75 %). 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 51,200, 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 4,200 higher than that of Finnish and Swedish-speaking couples.

Altogether, 27,500 Finnish or Swedish-speaking men are married to or cohabiting with a foreign-language speaking woman. The corresponding figure for women is 21,800. Marriages with foreign-language speakers have increased by 2,500.

Table 4. Families speaking Finnish, Swedish or other language in 1990–2013

Mies/vaimo suomen tai muunkielinen Year
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2012 2013
Finnish speaking man and finnish speaking woman 1 088 742 1 081 473 1 089 232 1 105 316 1 114 828 1 114 397 1 113 618
Finnish speaking man and swedish speaking woman 16 544 16 876 17 394 17 904 18 337 18 463 18 496
Finnish speaking woman and swedish speaking man 22 734 22 822 23 445 24 218 24 552 24 696 24 738
Finnish speaking man and foreign speaking woman 4 020 7 636 11 094 16 062 21 772 24 419 25 753
Finnish speaking woman and foreign speaking man 5 951 8 679 10 236 13 181 17 441 19 423 20 354
Finnish speaking mother/father 162 209 174 554 174 861 166 741 161 302 159 373 158 547
Swedish speaking man and swedish speaking woman 53 348 50 845 49 198 48 190 47 881 47 633 47 434
Swedish speaking man and foreign speaking woman 300 483 655 982 1 434 1 623 1 735
Swedish speaking woman and foreign speaking man 410 597 678 943 1 261 1 396 1 471
Swedish speaking mother/father 8 489 8 871 8 609 8 147 7 953 7 775 7 750
Foreign speaking man and foreign speaking woman 1 832 7 425 11 668 16 944 27 638 33 826 37 375
Foreign speaking mother/father 762 2 709 4 893 7 374 10 674 12 709 13 768

2.1 Fifteen per cent of Russian-speaking families are one-parent families

The largest foreign-language group in Finland is made up of Russian speakers. At the end of 2013, there were 13,700 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 12,200. 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 almost 4,000, which is 15 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, 95 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. In the course of 2013, the number of such couples has risen by 700. In 1990, there were only 300 Russian-speaking couples in Finland, today their number has gone up to nearly 10,000.

The second most common language combination in Russian-speaking families is a Finnish-speaking husband and a Russian-speaking wife (8,200). It is still rare for a Finnish-speaking woman to have a Russian-speaking spouse. However, their number (1,500) has more than quadrupled from 1990.

2.2 In five per cent of families at least one parent or the only parent is a foreign citizen

In only five per cent (77,700 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 4,600. 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 husband is a Finnish citizen and the wife a foreign citizen. There were nearly as many families with two foreign spouses, 23,100 (Figure 3). In 2011, the most common combination in families with foreigners was still a foreign husband and a Finnish wife. 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 Estonian citizens, 13,100. There are nearly as many families with Russian citizens, 12,000.

Entirely foreign families, i.e. families where the only parent or both spouses are foreign citizens, total 32,000. There were 5,600 families where the only parent or both spouses are Russian citizens at the end of 2013. There were 8,100 entirely Estonian families of which nearly one third were families consisting of mother and children only. The number of Estonian families increased by 1,100 from the year before.

Families of two Somali citizens or with one Somali parent numbered 1,100. The number of these families grew by 65 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 2,400 families where both spouses or one parent were originally Somali citizens.

Figure 3. Families of foreign citizens in 1990, 2003 and 2013

Figure 3. Families of foreign citizens in 1990, 2003 and 2013

2.3 Men have more often a spouse born abroad than women

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 37,100 foreign-born spouses. The number has grown by 1,400 from the year before. Finnish-born women have 31,900 foreign-born spouses; the number having grown by 1,200. 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 11,800 spouses who were born in the former Soviet Union, Russia or Estonia, and 8,500 spouses who were born in Sweden. Spouses born in Thailand numbered 4,200, and their number has increased by 267 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. The number of spouses born in Sweden is 8,700. Husbands born in the former Soviet Union, Russia and Estonia number 2,600, which is equal to the year before. The next most frequent countries of birth of Finnish women' foreign spouses are Great Britain, Germany, Turkey and the USA.

Figure 4A. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born men by country of birth in 2013

Figure 4A. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born men by country of birth in 2013

Figure 4B. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born women by country of birth in 2013

Figure 4B. Foreign-born spouses of Finnish-born women by country of birth in 2013

Source: Population and Cause of Death Statistics, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Marjut Pietiläinen 029 551 2798, Timo Nikander 029 551 3250, vaesto.tilasto@stat.fi

Director in charge: Riitta Harala


Updated 21.11.2014

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. Annual Review 2013, 2. Just three per cent of all families are entirely foreign-language speakers . Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 25.8.2019].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2013/02/perh_2013_02_2014-11-21_kat_002_en.html