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Towards the unknown

We are moving towards the unknown. Our society is changing in a way which is unforeseeable. These changes are related to the two demographic developments state and to the technological advances radically influencing our lifestyle. We will see Finland, which has grown old, has become multicultural and where most of the relationships are virtual. It exists, but we don’t know how it’s like.

The population ages. Finland’s population will in the middle of this century reach about six million. The age structure of this small nation changes significantly. According to Statistics Finland those who are above 65 years of age will in 2030 become one fourth of the population, which is about 1,5 million people. At the same time, the working population decreases, so that in the middle of the century their share of the population will be 10 per cent lower than it’s today.

The population becomes more multicultural. About 270 000 people in Finland are born abroad. The migration will also continue in the future. Statistics Finland prognosticates that in 2030 the number of Finnish citizens born abroad will be at least half a million and by 2040 the amount reaches 705 000. At the same time, the percentage of children and youngsters, whose parents are born abroad, is rapidly growing. They are today only around 38 000. Thus, the cultural and linguistical diversity will increase significantly.

This development varies from region to region. Specifically the capital region, Tampere and Turku regions will change. Finland’s biggest new ethnical and cultural communities will be founded in Uusimaa, Finland Proper and Tampere region At the same time the amount and percentage of the elderly population in the regions are notably increasing. Other parts of Finland will be culturally homogeneous also in the future but are ageing.

Life gets more virtual. According to Statistics Finland’s research about IT-consumption, 86 per cent of Finland’s 16- to 74-year-old citizens used internet in 2010. All young people are already using internet in all but name. Over four fifths of those between 16-24 years have a member account in a social media service. Half of them are following a specific social media every day, a major part several times a day. The social life of children and youngsters gets busier in an earlier stage, but they barely leave the house meeting others or experiencing things. The online- and offline-mode intermingle.

There has never been such a society before, of which a major part was over 65 years of age: seniors, veterans and grey panthers. There have always been multicultural societies, but the recent development changes the ethnic and cultural structure more than before, both in a quantitative and qualitative way. Moreover, the change is occurring within the historical background of a nation-state ideology, whose historical background accentuates a homogeneous culture. This makes things difficult to understand and to accept.

The effects of the digital age are also a huge puzzle. What kind of adult members will today’s children be in the society of tomorrow when they have, already at an early stage, become accustomed to the idea as Mika Mannermaa [Doctor of Business] put it “always carry everything with me, or rather, carrying the whole world in my pocket”? Nobody knows.

We are moving towards the unknown, but we don’t need to walk there backwards. Even though we cannot know the future of Finland, we do know a great deal about its variables.  We cannot deny the ageing population, its ethnical and cultural transformation and not to mention the IT-development. They need to be included in the dialogue about the future.

Arts and culture life are at the heart of these changes: creators, consumers and providers. Arts capture the transformation of the world. With these changes comes also new ways and methods of artistic expression, and new meanings and their interpretations. Arts can help the different parts of this fragmenting society to converge and indulge in dialogue. The traditional group of arts consumers is ageing and decreasing. The new one is a more multifaceted group in this multivariate world of ours.

We are moving towards a new and unknown arts life in Finland. The interest in arts and culture is hardly decreasing, and more interesting arts are to come. Anyway, people don’t come to arts as they did before. Arts need to be where the people are!

Pasi Saukkonen, 2012

English translation by Nardin Crisbi

[note] = notes by translator are marked in square brackets


Mannermaa, Mika: Jokuveli - elämä ja vaikuttaminen ubiikkiyhteiskunnassa. WSOYpro 2008, Juva. (approx: Somebody’s brother, life and influences in the society of always being present)

Siegel, Lee: "The Kids Aren´t Alright. The perils of parenting in the digital age". Newsweek, October 15 2012.

Statistics Finland: "Ennuste 65 vuotta täyttäneiden määrästä pienenee hieman", published 28.9.2012.

Statistics Finland: "Toisen polven maahanmuuttajia vielä vähän Suomessa", updated 4.7.2012.

Statistics Finland: "Sosiaalinen media vahvasti läsnä nuorten arjessa", updated 22.12.2010.

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