Almost 100,000 Helsinki residents with foreign background

One out of seven residents of Helsinki is of foreign origin. At the start of 2018, 99,908 Helsinki city dwellers were people with foreign background, according to figures provided by the City Executive Office. The number constitutes 15.5 per cent of the total city population. A resident with foreign background is defined as a person whose both parents were born abroad. Out of all residents with foreign background, 18 per cent were born in Finland. Thus, they belonged to the second generation of the population with foreign background. The City Executive Office upholds the Population with foreign background ( website, where the statistics can be found.

The number of foreign-background residents of Helsinki grew by 5,020 people, i.e. by 5.3 per cent, in 2017. The growth pace, as measured in percentage points, has been declining in the last five years. Yet, about two-thirds of the city's population growth emanates from the population of foreign origin. At the turn of 2018, almost half of the foreign-origin inhabitants in the whole of Finland lived in the Capital region, whereas the region represents one-fifth of the country's total population. 

In the beginning of 2018, Helsinki's foreign-background population's most common countries of origin were the former Soviet Union, excluding Estonia, 17,836 people, Estonia 12,792, Somalia 10,203, Iraq 5,335, and China 3,310 people. In 2017, the largest growth was registered among Helsinki residents of Asian origin.

An increasing number of people with a foreign native language move to Helsinki from other parts of Finland

In year 2017, Helsinki had a net immigration of residents with a foreign mother tongue, in sum 4,341 people. The net immigration of people with a foreign mother tongue grew compared with the previous year, as Helsinki was the recipient of a significant increase of foreign-language residents moving from other parts of the country. The total net immigration of foreign-language people from the rest of Finland added up to 1,654 people, which is twice as many as in the previous year. However, the net immigration of foreign-language residents from abroad decreased to 2,687 people. A person is defined as speaking a native language of foreign origin, if the language registered in the Population Information System is some other than Finnish, Swedish or Sami.

In the year 2017, the largest language groups within Helsinki's net immigration of foreign-language residents were Arabic speakers (1,015 people), Somali speakers (534 people), Persian speakers (311 people) and Russian speakers (287 people). The net immigration of Arabic and Persian speakers grew compared with the previous year. Helsinki is the recipient of net immigration from most language groups. With the exception of Estonian, the net emigration by language group is very small. The net emigration of Estonian speakers from Helsinki amounted to 261 people in 2017. As late as ten years ago, there was a net immigration of Estonian speakers of about 500 people a year.

More children in foreign-language families compared with indigenous-language families

Families where a foreign language is spoken as mother tongue tend to have more children than what is the case where an indigenous language is spoken as native language. The average number of children in Helsinki families with children amounted to 1.67 at the beginning of 2018. In families where both parents speak an indigenous language as their mother tongue, the average number of children was 1.70, whereas it was 2.09 in families where both parents were foreign-language speakers. As for one-parent families, the number of children was smaller than in other families. There were also more families with small children as well as large families within the population of foreign-language families. In bilingual families where one of the parents was an indigenous-language speaker, English was by far the most common mother tongue of the foreign-language parent in case of a father, and Russian in case of a mother.


The website Population with foreign background in Helsinki (

Further information:

Researcher Jenni Erjansola, phone 09 310 36365, e-mail: