Published: 28 May 2021

Fall in the number of families has halted

According to Statistics Finland’s data, there were 1,467,653 families in Finland at the end of 2020. The number of families grew by 285, while in the previous year it decreased by 1,313 families. While in 1990 the commonest family type was “married couple with children”, in 2020 the commonest family type was “married couple without children”. The number of families with a married couple and children has been falling steadily. Correspondingly, the number of married and cohabiting couples living without children has grown.

Families by type 1990–2020

Families by type 1990–2020
1) Includes registered partnerships since 2002 and same-sex married couples since 2017.
2) Including only cohabiting opposite-sex couples and from 2020 also cohabiting same-sex couples with common children (biological and confirmed mother). In 2020, families of the type “cohabiting same-sex couple with common children” numbered 27.

Seventy-two per cent of the population, or 3,997,063 persons, belonged to a family, which is 16,881 fewer than in the year before. The share of persons belonging to a family has been decreasing steadily. In 1990, the respective share was 82 per cent of the population. The average size of families has also fallen from three persons in 1990 to 2.72 persons in 2020.

In family statistics, families are formed based on the data of the Population Information System on persons living in the same dwelling. There are some limitations to forming a statistical family based on register data alone. One such limitation is that a family of a cohabiting couple is mainly formed only for persons of opposite sexes. According to the Maternity Act (253/2018), which entered into force on 1 April 2019, a child may have a biological mother and a confirmed mother. As a result of this, female couples with common children have for the first time been counted as cohabiting couples in the family statistics. The second is related to new family forms, such as those where a couple living in a permanent partnership is not living together. The formation of statistical families is described in more detail in the quality description.

Number of families of a married couple and children decreases further

Examined by family type, 63 per cent of all families were families of married couples. In 2020, the number of families consisting of an opposite-sex married couple and children decreased by 8,966 families from the previous year, which is more than in the past few years. In turn, the number of opposite-sex married couples without children grew by 2,337. When examining all families it should be borne in mind that a child of a family can be of any age, that is, it is not an actual family with underage children (see families with children below).

Twenty-four per cent of families in 2020 were families of cohabiting couples. The number of families consisting cohabiting couple with children grew by 626 from the year before and the number of families without children grew by 6,128. For the time being, no cohabiting couples are formed in the family statistics from same-sex persons living together. The exception to this are female same-sex couples with common children, that is, the maternity has been confirmed (Maternity Act 253/2018): in 2020, there were 27 such cohabiting couples in total.

The number of one-parent families decreased by 81 families. Although the number of families formed by a mother and children decreased by 342, the number of families of a father and children increased by 261. However, the share of one-parent families has remained at 13 per cent.

The number of same-sex married couples increased by 336, while the number of registered couples decreased by 95. The development is a natural continuum of the amendment to the Marriage Act that entered into force at the beginning of March 2017, as a result of which part of registered partners have changed their partnership into marriage and new registered partnerships can no longer be formed. There were 1,059 families of registered couples and 2,654 families of same-sex married couples. Of them, 62 per cent were families of female couples.

In 2020, there were 1.25 million persons living alone, or 33,000 more than in the year before.

Over half of families with children are families of married couples

The total number of families with children was 556,052. The number declined by 2,250 from the year before. The decrease is 1,413 lower than in the previous year, but on level with the last ten years or so, on average, when the annual decrease has been around 2,000. A family with children has at least one child under the age of 18. The decrease in the number of families with children mainly indicates that the age groups of children coming of age in the families is larger than the new age groups being born. In addition to the size of age groups being born and coming of age, the number is also influenced by other factors, such as international migration.

A total of 37 per cent of the population belonged to families with children. The most common family type of families with children was still a family formed by an opposite-sex married couple, making up 56 per cent of families with children. One-fifth of families with children were families of cohabiting couples. The share of families formed by a mother and children among families with children was also 20 per cent. Even though the number of families formed by a father and children has grown, their number is still very low, four per cent. A same-sex married couple was a parent in 667 families with children and a registered couple in 219 families with children.

One million underage children in families with children

There was a total of 1,020,884 underage children in families with children, 7,146 down from the previous year. The average number of children was 1.84 in families with children. The figure has remained stable, although the number of children has declined. Of families with children, 43 per cent had one child, 39 per cent two children and 13 per cent three children. Five per cent of families with children had at least four children aged under 18. The shares have remained unchanged.

In family statistics, children are included in a family based on where they are officially registered. So, in case of divorce, the child is only included in the family of one parent even if the parents would in practice have joint custody. According to the ad hoc module on children’s shared residence carried out by Statistics Finland’s Labour Force Survey in 2018, there were around 110,000 children living in two homes, of whom 40,000 were living equally much in both homes.

Family statistics describe the size of families in Finland at a given moment and thus do not represent the eventual number of children in families. Children who have moved away from home are not counted as children of the family either.

Number of children is relatively highest in families with children in North Ostrobothnia and lowest in Åland

Examined by region, there are differences in the number of children in families with children. The share of families with at least four children is biggest in North Ostrobothnia, 11 per cent, and second biggest in Central Ostrobothnia, ten per cent. In relative terms, the number of families with at least four children is lowest in Åland and Southwest Finland, three per cent. The share of families with one child is highest in Kymenlaakso and Uusimaa, 45 per cent, and lowest in Central Ostrobothnia, 37 per cent.

Compared with 2000, the number of families with at least four children has grown only in Uusimaa, North Ostrobothnia, Pirkanmaa, Åland and Central Finland. In other regions, the number of families with at least four children has decreased: most in South Ostrobothnia, Satakunta, Lapland, North Karelia, and South Savo. Although the numerical change is biggest in Uusimaa, 855, the share has, however, remained unchanged (4%).

Nine per cent of families with underage children reconstituted families

At the end of 2020, there were 50,185 reconstituted families. The number of reconstituted families went down by 422 from the previous year. The share of reconstituted families in families with children has remained at nine per cent since 2004. Slightly over one-half, 54 per cent, of the parents of reconstituted families were cohabiting and close on one-half, 46 per cent, were married. Only families of opposite-sex couples are taken into account in reconstituted families.

On average, reconstituted families have two children, i.e. slightly more than families with children in general. Sixty per cent of all children were brought into the family by the mother, 11 per cent by the father and 29 per cent were common children of the parents of reconstituted families. The share of children brought into the family by their mother has remained almost at the same level already for the past quarter of a century. A reconstituted family is a family with at least one child aged under 18 of one parent only.

Living together with several generations is rare

In 2020, there were 8,800 families with three generations living together. In the previous year the number was still 9,200. The share of families of three generations was 0.6 per cent of all families in both years. Living together in four generations was even rarer than this: the number of such families was 43 in 2020.

There were 7,500 families with children where three generations lived together in 2020. The number was 300 lower than in the year before. In 2020, a total of 1.3 per cent of families with children were such families of three generations, 1.4 per cent in the previous year. There were 39 families with children including four generations in 2020.

Families by type in 1990 to 2020

Type of
family 
1990 2000 2010 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 Change 
2019–2020
Families 
total
1 365 341 1 401 963 1 455 073 1 475 335 1 475 583 1 471 500 1 468 681 1 467 368 1 467 653 285
Married
opposite-
sex
couple
without 
children
364 452 436 019 513 889 528 539 529 697 530 404 532 304 533 910 536 247 2 337
Married 
opposite-
sex
couple
with
children
640 062 514 868 446 433 424 185 418 032 412 102 404 142 396 025 387 059 -8 966
Married
same-sex  
couple,
men 1)
.. .. .. .. .. 524 675 784 897 113
Married 
same-sex
couple,
women
1)
.. .. .. .. .. 1 042 1 305 1 534 1757 223
Cohabiting
opposite-
sex
couple
no children
123 471 160 132 195 967 215 620 218 439 217 644 220 179 224 270 230 398 6 128
Cohabiting
couple
with 
children 2)
65 896 102 581 117 254 122 657 123 321 123 234 122 614 122 918 123 544 626
Mother and
children
147 297 159 432 149 651 150 274 151 459 152 460 152 888 152 759 152 417 -342
Father and
children
24 163 28 931 30 278 31 452 31 951 32 616 33 292 34 014 34 275 261
Registered
male 
couple 1)
.. .. 706 1 023 1 052 640 586 547 506 -41
Registered
female 
couple 1)
.. .. 895 1 585 1 632 834 696 607 553 -54
Family 
population
4 101 922 4 053 850 4 065 168 4 080 544 4 072 565 4 055 224 4 033 721 4 013 944 3 997 063 -16 901
Population
31.12.
4 998 478 5 181 115 5 375 276 5 487 308 5 503 297 5 513 130 5 517 919 5 525 292 5 533 793 8 501
Proportion 
of family
population
82,1 78,2 75,6 74,4 74,0 73,6 73,1 72,6 72,2 -0,4
Average
size of
family
3,00 2,89 2,79 2,77 2,76 2,76 2,75 2,74 2,72 –0,02
1) Families of the type ”married same-sex couple with children” numbered 667 and ”registered couple with children” 219 in 2020.
2) Including only cohabiting opposite-sex couples and from 2020 also cohabiting same-sex couples with common children (biological and confirmed mother). In 2020, families of the type “cohabiting same-sex couple with common children” numbered 27.

Source: Families 2020, Statistics Finland

Inquiries: Marjut Pietiläinen 029 551 2798, Timo Nikander 029 551 3250, Joonas Toivola 029 551 3355, info@stat.fi

Head of Department in charge: Hannele Orjala

Publication in pdf-format (437.3 kB)

Tables

Tables in databases

Appendix tables

Figures
Quality descriptions

Updated 28.5.2021

Referencing instructions:

Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Families [e-publication].
ISSN=1798-3231. 2020. Helsinki: Statistics Finland [referred: 1.8.2021].
Access method: http://www.stat.fi/til/perh/2020/perh_2020_2021-05-28_tie_001_en.html