Concepts and definitions


In connection with vital events, age data refer to the age on the day the event took place. Average age is obtained by adding up the ages of all persons involved in the same event at the time of the event, after which the sum is divided by the number of these persons. As the used age of a person is given in full years at the time of the event, it is not the exact age of that person. For this reason, it is assumed when computing average age that the persons were aged x+0.5, on average, at the time of the event.

Age-specific marriage rate

The age-specific marriage rate indicates the number of married women per 1,000 non-married women of the mean population in the age group in question.

Age-specific remarriage rate

The age-specific remarriage rate indicates the number of second or higher order marriages contracted by women per 1,000 women that have previously been married in the age group in question.

Country of birth

All persons entered in the Population Register are indicated a country of birth, which is determined on the basis of the mother's permanent home country at the time of birth. This means, for example, that the country of birth of Estonian immigrants born before Estonian independence is the Soviet Union. Similarly, the country of birth of people who were born in areas that Finland has subsequently ceded is Finland even though the area no longer is Finnish territory. Country of birth is indicated according to the form of government at the time of birth.

Crude divorce rate

The crude divorce rate refers to the number of divorces per 1,000 persons of the mean population.

Crude marriage rate

The crude marriage rate refers to married women per 1,000 of the mean population.

Crude remarriage rate

The crude remarriage rate refers to the number of second or higher order marriages contracted by women per 1,000 previously married women of the mean population.


The divorce statistics are based on data on granted decrees of divorce transmitted to the Population Register Centre by courts of law. The statistics also include cases where a permanent resident of Finland is granted a divorce by a foreign court. If the divorce is granted abroad, it must be reported to the register keeper for registration of divorce. Exceptions are divorces granted to Finnish citizens in Sweden, on which the Swedish register keeper notifies the Finnish counterpart directly.

A divorce granted to a Finnish citizen abroad usually requires validation by the Helsinki Court of Appeal before registration. Divorce decisions given in the Nordic Countries and in the EU countries as of 1 March 2001 can be registered without validation.

In 1980 to 2016, divorces referred to divorces of women living permanently in Finland unless otherwise stated. Starting from the statistical reference year 2017, divorces where at least one of the spouses has resided permanently in Finland on the day the divorce was granted are included in the statistics as divorces. The amendment to the Marriage Act that entered into force on 1 March 2017 enabled same-sex couples to enter into marriage (156/2015). Since 2017, the total number of divorces consists of the number of divorces of marriages between opposite-sex and same-sex couples.

The amendment to the Marriage Act (411/1987), effective from 1 January 1988, simplified divorce proceedings. Divorce figures began to rise towards the end of 1988, when the first divorces (after a reconsideration period of six months) became effective under the new legislation. The Marriage Act no longer has regulations on 'cancellation of marriage' or 'nullification of marriage'. Before the new act came into force in 1988 these were in separate groups, now among divorces.

Educational level

The data on education are based on Statistics Finland's Register of Completed Education and Degrees.

Six categories are used for the level of education in vital statistics: basic level, upper secondary level, lowest level tertiary, lower-degree level tertiary, higher-degree level tertiary and doctorate or equivalent level. Educational level is measured by the duration of education.

Those with basic level qualifications have had at most nine years of education, with leaving certificates from primary schools, middle schools and comprehensive schools.

Those having completed the upper secondary level of education have spent 11 to 12 years in education. These qualifications include matriculation examination, vocational qualifications attained in 1-3 years and further vocational qualifications.

Lowest level tertiary education lasts 2 to 3 years after upper secondary education. Examples of these qualifications include qualification of technician engineer, diploma in business and administration and diploma in nursing, which are not polytechnic degrees. Those having completed lower-degree level tertiary education have had 3 to 4 years of education after upper secondary education.

Lower-degree level tertiary education comprises polytechnic degrees and lower university degrees.

Higher-degree level tertiary education comprises education with a duration of 5 to 6 years after upper secondary education. This type of education leads to higher university degrees (master's degree) and specialist's degrees in medicine.

Completion of doctorate or equivalent level tertiary education requires independent research work or doctorate theses fit for publication. The degrees are scientific licentiate and doctorate degrees.


Information on language is obtained from the Population Information System. At the same time as parents register the name of their new-born, they also indicate the child's mother tongue. That language is retained in the Population Information System unless it is changed upon separate application.

Languages are classified by the Population Register Centre according to the ISO 639 standard. The future language classification ISO-639-1 was already adopted for the 2000 population census.

Marital status

The information on marital status is derived from the Population Information System of the Population Register Centre. It should be noted that common-law marriage or cohabiting is not a marital status. People representing all marital status categories may be cohabiting, including those who are still officially married.

The current divorce regulations no longer recognise the concept of legal separation. Those persons who are legally separated on the basis of the old divorce provisions prior to 1 January 1988 and still living apart have been slotted under married persons in the statistics.

The possibility to register partnerships started in Finland on 1 March 2002 and ended on the last day of February 2017 (Act to amend the Act of Registered Partnerships 250/2016). Starting from the beginning of March 2017, same-sex couples have been able to enter into marriage (156/2015). Same-sex couples had been able to register their partnership in Finland as of 1 March 2002.

The amendment to the Marriage Act that entered into force on 1 March 2017 didn't change the classification of marital status.

For reasons of data protection, in municipal tables those living in a registered partnership are classified together with married persons, as are those divorced or widowed from a registered partnership with divorced and widowed persons.

The classification of marital status is as follows:

  • Unmarried
  • Married
  • Divorced
  • Widowed
  • Partner in a registered partnership
  • Divorced from a registered partnership
  • Widowed after a registered partnership


Starting from the statistical reference year 2017, contracted marriages refer to marriages where at least one of the spouses has resided permanently in Finland on the day when the marriage was contracted. The amendment to the Marriage Act that entered into force on 1 March 2017 enabled same-sex couples to enter into marriage (156/2015).

The number of marriages contracted annually is, thus, the number of marriages entered into by same-sex and opposite-sex spouses.

In 1980 to 2016, contracted marriages referred to marriages of women living permanently in Finland unless otherwise stated.

Mean population

The notion of mean population (or average population) refers to the average of the populations of two consecutive years. When a ratio describing some phenomenon is calculated for the statistical year, the number of events in the phenomenon in question is usually expressed as a proportion of the mean population of the people or the groups subject to the event. The figures relating to population events are generally given as per 1,000, that is, the result of the division is multiplied by one thousand.

Registered partnership

Registered partnership of two persons of the same sex aged 18 or over (Act on Registered Partnerships of 9 Nov. 2001/950). Partnership is registered by an authority entitled to perform civil marriage ceremonies. Registered partnership is dissolved when one partner dies or is declared dead, or when it is dissolved by court order.


The information about sex has been obtained from the Population Information System.

Total divorce rate

The total divorce rate is an index calculated from the divorces granted in one year. Ratios are calculated between the numbers of marriages contracted in different years and ending in divorce and the numbers of all marriages contracted in the same year, respectively. For example, for couples divorced in 2001, a ratio is calculated between those married for 30 years and all couples married in 1971; between those married for 29 years and all couples married in 1972; and so on. The sum of these ratios, expressed per hundred, is the total divorce rate. It indicates the percentage of marriages that would end in divorce if the divorce rate of the reference year remained the same during the entire marriage. Because in certain cases the figure can be higher than 100 per cent, it is not right to interpret it as a probability.

Total marriage rate

The total marriage rate describes the proportion of women (generally per 100 or 1,000 persons) that contract marriage in their lives, on condition that none of them die and that the marriage rate in the pertinent cohort remains constant throughout the period when these women belong to the age groups of 15 to 49 years. It is computed by adding up the age-specific marriage rates of first marriages in the whole age period. For the age-specific marriage rate a ratio is calculated between the number of women contracting marriages and all the women in the age group and not only the non-married ones.

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Changes in marital status [e-publication].
ISSN=1797-643X. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 5.4.2020].
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