Women with foreign background become mothers younger
Women with foreign background gave birth to 7.1 per cent of the children born in Finland between 2007 and 2011. Women with foreign background are slightly younger when giving birth than Finnish-born women are.
Depending on the mode of calculation, there are already around a quarter of a million people with foreign background living in Finland and their number is growing still. Sixty-one per cent of women with foreign background are of fertility age, or aged between 15 and 49. Among women of Finnish origin, the share is 42 per cent.
Origin and fertility as concepts
In this article, fertility is discussed in the demographic sense, that is, the word refers to realised fertility as differing from physiological fertility. The number of children born is compared with the number of women of fertility age (usually aged 15 to 49). (Pitkänen 2007)
Foreign background is in turn examined with the help of Statistics Finland's concept of origin. Origin is determined by the country of birth of the person's parents. Thus, it is possible to distinguish between first and second generation persons with foreign background. If the person and his or her parents are born abroad, he or she is of foreign origin in the first generation. Persons of foreign origin in the second generation are those born in Finland whose parents have been born abroad.
Using the origin concept, it is also possible to specify the person's background country; the background country is primarily the mother's country of birth. If such information cannot be found, the father's country of birth is selected, or failing that, the person's own country of birth. A more exact definition of the origin concept can be found on the website of the statistics on population structure.
The concept "background", e.g. "with foreign background", "with Russian background", is used as a synonym in this article.
Women with Thai background the most female-dominated group of foreigners
This article thus examines fertility according to the mother's origin. The father of the child can thus be of Finnish or foreign origin. In addition to Finnish-born and foreign-born women, compared are women from three example countries of background. These background countries are Russia (incl. former Soviet Union), Somalia and Thailand, which each represent different continents.
When examining the whole population, the biggest groups of foreign origin are Russians, Estonians and Somalis. When viewing the foreigner population by women's share only, Thailand emerges as a top country in addition to these. For this reason, it was chosen to the fertility examination.
In 2011, as many as 85 per cent of people with Thai background were women. Women made up 60 per cent of those with Russian background and 47 per cent of those with Somali background.
Only a few second generation women are of fertility age
Persons of foreign origin can be divided into foreigners of the first and second generation. The share of second generation persons of foreign background is still quite small in Finland: in 2011 it was only 15 per cent.
Sixty-nine per cent of foreign women of the first generation were aged 15 to 49. The group of women of this age was much smaller in second generation foreign women – 14 per cent. This translates to around 2,500 women. Most of the second generation population with foreign background are still quite young; 80 per cent of them are aged under 15.
When women of fertility age, that is, aged 15 to 49, are selected from women of foreign origin, Thailand as the background country is at the top of the list. Of women with Thai background, 85 per cent were of fertility age in 2011. Among those born in Russia, 54 per cent were aged 15 to 49, and 55 per cent of those born in Somalia.
Although the total number of women with Somali background is over double that of women with Thai background (Somalia 13,900, Thailand 6,100), the number of women of fertility age is higher among women with Thai background (4,430) than among those with Somali background (3,650)
Belonging to the fertility-age group does not mean that the woman would already have given birth or be about to give birth. A small group is also formed by those who have given birth before they reach the age of 15 or after they are 49.
In the example year 2011, 5.9 per cent of fertility age women with Thai background gave birth, as did 10.6 per cent of women with Somali background. For women with Russian background, the corresponding figure was 4.9 per cent. Among Finnish women of fertility age, 5.1 per cent gave birth, as did 6.3 per cent of women with foreign background. The figures for women with Somali background differ most from the other examined groups.
Between 2007 and 2011, women with Russian background gave birth to 1.7 per cent of the children born in Finland. Among Somali women the share was 0.5 per cent and among Thai women 0.4 per cent.
It would be interesting to examine fertility separately among first and second generation women with foreign background, but at the moment, the number of second generation women having given birth is too small for calculating any rational indicators. Between 2007 and 2011, only around twenty children per year have been born to second generation women with foreign background.
Women with foreign background give birth to an average of 2.1 children
One of the most used index numbers for fertility is the total fertility rate (TFR). This figure indicates how many children a woman would give birth to calculatorily during her life if age group-specific fertility rates remained the same as in the year on which the calculation is based. In 2011, the fertility rate in Finland was 1.83, or slightly under two children per woman. This figure is calculated from all women of fertility age belonging to the population of Finland, that is, all women of Finnish and foreign origin in total.
The total fertility rate of women of foreign origin is slightly higher than among Finns. Between 2007 and 2011, this figure was, on average, 2.09 for women with foreign background, while it was 1.84 for women of Finnish origin.
The average for the total fertility rate is calculated for the example countries of background for the years 2007 to 2011, because yearly variations are large for such small numbers of people. The figure was biggest for women with Somali background, 4.00 children. The figure was 2.08 for women with Thai background, the same as the total figure for women with foreign background. The total fertility rate for women with Russian background, 1.73, was lower than that for women with Finnish background. These figures are similar to the ones earlier calculated on the basis of the mother's country of birth (Statistics Finland 2012a).
Figure 1. Age group-specific fertility rates among women of Finnish and foreign origin, averages for the years 2007–2011
Source: Statistics Finland. Population statistics.
The total fertility rate is calculated from age group-specific fertility rates (Figure 1). They show that younger age groups of women with foreign background give birth more often than those with Finnish background. The only age group where the fertility rate of women with Finnish background is higher is those aged 30 to 34. Among those with foreign background, the figure is highest for women aged 25 to 29.
No great differences in average age of women giving birth
Fertility can also be examined from the point of the average age of women giving birth. This figure gives an average for the age of the women giving birth in a certain year. When examining all women having given birth in total, differences in the average age in 2007 to 2011 are small: the average for the years was 30.1 for women with Finnish background and 30.0 for women with foreign background. Yearly, the difference has been between 0 and 0.3 years, so the differences can be calculated in months.
The average age of women giving birth differs only little among women from example countries of background compared with women with Finnish background. The figures for Thailand, Russia and Somalia as background countries are calculated as averages for the years 2007 to 2011.
The average age was lowest among women with Somali background, 29.4 years. The average age of women with Russian background giving birth, 30.2 years, was closest to that of women with Finnish background, 30.1. The average age was even higher than this among women with Thai background, 30.9 years.
The average age at first confinement was 28.2 years for women with Finnish background and 28.0 years for women with foreign background (average 2007–2011). The difference between the average ages at first confinement was also very small between these groups.
The average age at first confinement among women with Somali background was 24.3 years, among women with Russian background 27.9 years, and for women with Thai background 30.0 years. Over this period, the difference among women with Somali background to those with Finnish background was thus nearly four years.
Three out of four mothers with foreign background are married
Fertility can also be examined based on the mother's marital status. The number of children born in wedlock went down fast from the mid-1990s to the beginning of the 2000s, but in the 2000s this reduction has slowed down (Statistics Finland 2012b). In total population, 59 per cent of the women having given birth were married or in a registered same-sex partnership between 2007 and 2011.
If included are only those whose background country is Finland, 58 per cent were married throughout the period 2007 to 2011 (Figure 2). This figure is considerably higher for women with foreign background, 76 per cent, on average, over the same period.
From 2007 to 2011, women with Russian background having given birth were married or in a registered partnership almost as often as women with foreign background in general, i.e. 73 per cent belonged to this group. On average, 68 per cent of women with Somali background having given birth were married over this period. This share was biggest for women with Thai background, 85 per cent.
Figure 2. Married women and those in a registered partnership having given birth according to background country in 2007–2011, percentage of all women having given birth
Source: Statistics Finland. Population statistics.
On the level of total population, 46 per cent of women at first confinement were married or in a registered partnership between 2007 and 2011, that is, much fewer than of all women having given birth in total. For first-time mothers with Finnish background, this figure was 44 per cent, on average, and for women with foreign background it was 72 per cent from 2007 to 2011.
Among first-time mothers with foreign background, the figure is just four percentage points lower than among all women with foreign background having given birth. The difference is much bigger between first-time mothers with Finnish background and all women having given birth, 12 percentage points. Mothers with foreign background are much more often married than women with Finnish background when their first child is born.
There may be many reasons for the differences in the shares of married women. Women with foreign background are generally more often married than women with Finnish background are. This is partly caused by their different age structure and cultural background.
Pitkänen, Kari (2007). Sanasto (Glossary; in Finnish only). In Seppo Koskinen et al (eds.): Suomen väestö (Finland's population; in Finnish only). Helsinki: Gaudeamus.
Statistics Finland 2012a. Foreigners and migration 2011. OSF Population 2012 Helsinki: Statistics Finland.
Statistics Finland (2012b). Vital Statistics 2011. OSF Population 2012 Helsinki: Statistics Finland.