Background

Finland is a northern European country, neighbouring Sweden in the west, Norway in the north, Russia in the east and Estonia in the south. The area is around 337 000 square kilometres. The north-south distance is some 1 165 km and the east-west distance some 550 km as its furthest. Some 65% of the territory is covered with forest, and around 10% is swamps. Arable land covers some 8% of the total land area. There are a total of 187,888 lakes in Finland. Finland has the largest archipelago in Europe, which includes also the semi-autonomous province of Åland.

The population of Finland is some 5 236 000 (end 2004). The population density is 17 persons per square kilometre. The share of the population living in urban areas ("densely populated areas") is some 81%. These urban areas are on an average quite spaciously built; the population density is some 750 inhabitants per land square kilometre.

Because of late urbanisation, the building stock is new: 85% of all existing buildings have been constructed since 1950. Despite spaciously-built settlements, Finns live quite confined in their dwellings: the average living space per person is 35 square metres. The average size of a household is 2.3 people. Most common residential buildings are detached houses and blocks of flats, which are almost equally represented (40% and 44%, respectively, of all dwellings in 2003). About two-thirds of the housing stock consists of owner-occupied homes. The summer cottage is an integral part of the Finnish way of life: there are some 466 000 summer cottages (2003), and 46% of the Finns over the age of 15 have a summer cottage in their use for free (e.g. owned by their parents).

The economic system in Finland is based on a market economy. The GDP is some 28 640 € per capita (2004).