Proportion of native-born Finns decreases in Helsinki region suburbs
One in five Suvela residents non-Finnish
Native-born Finns have started to move out of suburbs in the greater Helsinki area, where the proportion of foreign-born residents is increasing. The trend is reflected in a sharp increase in residents speaking languages other than Finnish or Swedish.
In the Suvela area of Espoo the proportion of people speaking foreign languages has increased from 7.6 per cent in 2000 to 20.7 per cent in 2009.
Researchers have used the term “white flight” for the process in which the proportion of minorities in a neighbourhood grows through migration and births at the expense of that of the native population who start gravitating away from the areas.
In research for her doctoral thesis, Katja Vilkama has studied migration statistics, which indicate that there are concentrations of immigrants in certain residential areas in the greater Helsinki area – Suvela in Espoo, Länsimäki in Vantaa, and Kallahti in Helsinki, and many others.
However, the trend is in its early stages in Finland. Valkama notes that in Sweden there are urban suburbs in which the native Swedish population constitute a small minority.
Urban geographer Venla Bernelius says that the same process that took place in other parts of Europe is now under way in Finland. A previous low level of immigration, combined with relatively small income disparities has delayed the phenomenon.
“The direction appears clear. Differentiation is increasing all the time.”
Experiences from other parts of Europe and North America suggest that it is very difficult to reverse a process of ethnic differentiation. Bernelius says that the time to act is now.
At present, conditions in Finnish suburbs are nowhere near those of slums or ghettoes in other countries.
However, Matti Kortteinen, professor of urban sociology at the University of Helsinki says that isolation from the population at large makes it more difficult for immigrants to adapt to Finnish society.
“The development harms people’s overall well-being”, Kortteinen says.
One reason for the trend is that immigrants often end up living in areas where there is much municipal housing. Many Finns who are long-term unemployed also live in these areas.
“The issue is not only about ethnic differentiation. The worst-off Finns and the worst-off immigrants live in isolated suburbs”, Bernelius says.
“Those with high incomes and families where the parents are employed feel insecure in areas with a high rate of unemployment”, says Kortteinen on the basis of research that he has done with Dr. Mari Vaattovaara.
“We have stepped into a new age in which it is considerably more difficult than before to influence development.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Immigrants account for half of Finland’s population growth (23.3.2011)
How soon will immigrants assimilate into the mainstream? (8.2.2011)
Immigrants concentrated in rental apartment blocks in East Helsinki (25.5.2010)