Three girls taking a smartphone selfie together.

Most of Helsinki’s children and young people with a foreign background are well but some face a variety of challenges

Some young people with a foreign background are faced with a wide range of challenges in their lives. Low income levels are more common among immigrant families than native Finnish families. Participation in leisure activities is more scarce and instances of bullying are more common. In addition to this, children and young people with a foreign background more frequently report their general health as being average or worse. This is indicated by a study conducted by the City of Helsinki Executive Office on the well-being of children and young people with a foreign background. 

On average, young people with a foreign background are in a more disadvantaged position than their Finnish peers in the transition from comprehensive school. However, the second generation is more likely to attend upper secondary education and obtain a degree. More and more young second-generation immigrants are attending upper secondary school.
The majority of children and young people with a foreign background enjoy school and feel that they can influence things related to their schoolwork. However, they report a slightly higher number of difficulties than their peers, and fatigue is more common among comprehensive school pupils with a foreign background.


Notable differences in the health of young people of different ethnicities

Children and young people with a foreign background more frequently report their general health as being average or worse. Obesity is more common, especially among boys. In terms of physical activity, children and young people with a foreign background are mostly either inactive or highly active. Regular meals are also less common among them than their Finnish peers. On the other hand, young people with a foreign background tend to abstain from alcohol and other substances more often. 

A foreign background tends to correlate with a lack of close friends

Children and young people with a foreign background seem to face more challenges with social relationships than their Finnish peers. These challenges can manifest themselves as a lack of friends and difficulties in interactions with parents.
Children and young people with a foreign background are more likely to fall victim to school bullying. They also engage in bullying more often than children and young people with a Finnish background. Comprehensive school pupils with a foreign background have experienced physical threat more often than their Finnish peers. Physical violence inflicted by parents is also more common among upper secondary school pupils with a foreign background.

Further action is required despite improvements in many areas

The number and proportional population share of children and young people with a foreign background have increased rapidly in recent decades. An increasing number of them are Finnish-born. In addition to the generation during which the immigration took place, children and young people with a foreign background can be divided into groups based on a variety of factors, such as the reason for immigration, basis for the residence permit, country of birth or origin, ethnic group, language group and cultural group.

The study also indicates positive developments and results. Low income levels are now less common among immigrant families with children than in 2013. More young people with a foreign background are continuing to upper secondary education and fewer than before are not in any education or employment. Many children and young people with a foreign background are satisfied with their lives, enjoy school and feel a strong sense of inclusion.

That said, the results of the study also imply that children and young people with a foreign background are suffering from problems related to their well-being. This is why it is important to invest in promoting equality and well-being among children and young people with a foreign background who have either moved to Finland themselves or been born in the country. As an example, efforts should be made to include them in activities that take place in areas of life that are close to them.

The research data presented here is primarily based on information on Helsinki gained through the 2019 school health survey. In addition to this, the report leverages public statistics from Statistics Finland, the Vipunen statistical service of the Finnish National Agency for Education, and the City of Helsinki Education Division.

Read more:

Well-being of children and young people with a foreign background in Helsinki, Studies by the City of Helsinki Executive Office 2020: 5  (In Finnish)

Research results in brief  (In Finnish)

Population with foreign background in Helsinki’ website

Foto: Sakari Röyskö, City of Helsinki Media Bank.