Currently almost 100,000 people aged over 65 live in Helsinki, equivalent to 16 per cent of the city’s population. This is slightly more than elsewhere in the Helsinki Region (14 per cent) but less than the Finnish average (19 per cent). There are significantly more elderly women (61 per cent) than men (39 per cent). 89 per cent of the age group speak Finnish, 9 per cent speak Swedish and 3 per cent have another native language.
The share of 65+ year-olds in Helsinki remained higher than in Finland as a whole until the mid-1990s, but the proportion dropped as the city entered a period of rapid growth. The number of people aged 65 or over – and their share of the population – began to increase rapidly in all parts of Finland in the early 2010s as the baby boom generation (those born between 1945 and 1950) entered retirement age.
During the current decade, the number of people aged 65 years or over has already increased in Helsinki by one third (25,000), which equals 40 per cent of the total population growth. The number of men and women belonging to this age group increased by over 50 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.
At present the population of Helsinki is ageing rapidly, but not as fast as the entire Finnish population. In Helsinki, the estimate according to the medium variant is that the share of over 65-year-olds will rise to 20 per cent by 2032, while Finland as a whole will reach this percentage at the beginning of next year.
Among the elderly population of Helsinki, the number of people aged 65–74 has been on a steep rise for several years. This group will continue to grow for another decade, after which the growth will cease for the foreseeable future. The number of 75–84-year-olds is increasing gradually, but the strongest period of growth will take place between 2018 and 2027. By the end of the 2020s this group will increase in Helsinki by over 80 per cent compared to the current level. The number of people older than 85 will grow steadily until 2030 followed by a period of faster growth. According to the current prognosis, their number will almost triple by 2040.
The increase of the elderly population in relation to the working age population remained at a stable level in Helsinki until the 2010s. By contrast, in Finland as a whole, the old-age dependency ratio has been declining for somewhat longer (Figure 2). The dependency ratio is now falling more rapidly because the post-war baby boom generation has entered retirement age.
It is noteworthy that the old-age dependency ratio of the Helsinki Region as a whole is declining proportionately faster than in Helsinki itself. In earlier decades, the share of the retirement age population was notably higher in Helsinki. Young adults moving to the region now tend to settle initially in Helsinki. As a result, the age structure of the city is younger than in other parts of the region.
Until recent years, Finland had a more favourable old-age dependency ratio than Sweden. Today Finland is ageing much faster than Sweden. In Stockholm, the old-age dependency ratio has improved significantly since the 1990s, when the number of the retirement age population began to decrease. The reasons behind this development are the expansion of the city to the surrounding municipalities in the 1970s and the proportionately stronger population loss in the core area than in Helsinki. The population of Stockholm has once again been on the increase since the late 1980s, and between 2008 and 2013 the annual population growth was approximately 2 per cent, compared to 1.3 per cent in Helsinki. This has rejuvenated the population of the city.
Population projection by district
In the inner city of Helsinki, population decreased from the late 1940s to the early 1990s. In addition, the number of people aged over 65 began to decrease in the 1970s, but a new period of growth, which is predicted to continue, began after 2005. In the suburbs, the retirement age population is growing faster than before.
The number of people aged 75 or over is increasing particularly in the suburbs that contain plenty of housing built in the 1960s, for instance in eastern Helsinki. The 75+ age group is also growing in Jätkäsaari, Kalasatama and other districts with a high volume of new housing production – although the residents of these areas are primarily younger. On the other hand, the oldest suburbs, such as Maunula, Munkkiniemi and Herttoniemi, already have such a high share of elderly people that similar growth is unlikely.
Pekka Vuori is Senior Statistician at City of Helsinki Urban Facts.
City of Helsinki Urban Facts. Helsingin ja Helsingin seudun väestöennuste 2015–2050 [Population projection for Helsinki and the Helsinki Region], Statistics 2014:29.