The demographic structures and settlement patterns of Finland have evolved during the past 10,000 years. During this time the population has grown to its present size of almost 5.2 million through phases of fast and slow increase, and occasional periods of decrease.
Changes in the settlement pattern have accompanied the population growth. From the twelfth to the middle of the twentieth century, the general trend was a continuous dispersion of settlement from the southern core areas. The most significant twentieth-century redistributions of the population happened in connection with the resettling of over 400,000 refugees after World War II, and the Great Move in the 1960s and 1970s from rural to urban areas and to Sweden.
Finland remained a predominantly rural country until the 1960s. Structural changes within primary production and an increasingly international economy set into motion a regional concentration of the population. Today over 80 percent of the population lives in densely built areas covering only 2.2 percent of the land area.
The population’s age structure and the current level of natural reproduction will lead to a fast population decrease beginning in the 2020s. The work force will decrease from 2010 onward. These demographic problems will damage the future economy and competitiveness of Finland, unless immigration is encouraged and actively supported.