Finland’s present Population Information System is based on the integration of material compiled for two different purposes. Data on population in Finland has been registered for the needs of both the civil authorities and the church since the 16th century. This is when King Gustavus Vasa of Sweden launched administrative reforms and increased the efficiency of tax collection and military recruitment. For this purpose, land registers were established. Land registers specified the number of households, and their maintenance became established in the 1530s (the first one in Finland was the Åland Land Register of 1537). Maintenance of records of men fit for military service became established in the 1550s.
Census lists – local population registers – have been maintained in Finland since 1634. Originally they were lists of persons paying poll tax. Later they became an administrative tool that also facilitated the determination of place of residence and military recruitment and acted as electoral registers and tax rolls. Until 1652, registration of population data was the task of the clergy, but subsequently it was designated as the task of land commissioners until 1779 and thereafter of census officers. The last census was held in 1989.
The church also introduced its own population register. The church records of Sweden-Finland are among the oldest population records in Europe. As early as 1628, the Bishop of Turku, Isaacus Rothovius, ordered that vicars must keep records of births, marriages and deaths. The order to maintain parish registers was extended to cover the entire country in the 1660s, and this was confirmed by the Church Act of 1686. Finland’s first population statistics, population tables, date back to 1750.
The next significant change in the registration of population data took place over 200 years later in the 1950s and 1960s. To eliminate the problems occurring in the double and decentralised system that had developed over the centuries, the reform of population registration legislation and the establishment of a computerised central register was established as a goal.
Until the end of 1970, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church compiled data on their own members. Between 1919 and 1970 a Civil Register was kept on persons who did not belong to any church.
The Population Register Centre, tasked with directing and supervising population registration as well as responsibility for the central register of population (the present Population Information System), was set up in 1969. The computer-based register was introduced in 1971.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Orthodox Church managed population registration in cooperation with the local register offices until 1999 when their task became to keep a register of their members, while maintenance of the Population Information System remained with the local register offices.
The Population Register Centre currently maintains the Population Information System in cooperation with local register offices. On the basis of the statutory duty to provide information, information is received from citizens and from various public authorities. The Finnish Population Information System serves a variety of societal functions including election arrangements, taxation, judicial administration, administrative decision-making and planning, compilation of statistics, and research. Businesses and other organisations also have access to data collected in the Population Information System.
Basic data about buildings for the Population Information System in Finland was collected in conjunction with the 1980 Population and Dwelling Census on the basis of a questionnaire completed by building owners and dwelling occupants. Since 1 November 1980, information about construction projects subject to licence has been obtained directly from municipalities. Extensive reviews of data on buildings and residences were conducted in the mid-1980s and before the 1990 Population and Dwelling Census. The reviews placed a particular focus on residential buildings and individual residences and on consistency between information about persons, residences and buildings. Data on buildings constructed before 1980 is somewhat less extensive than on new buildings in the Population Information System.
Today building information is maintained and checked in close cooperation with municipal building supervision authorities and local register offices. The duty of municipal building supervision authorities to issue notification of construction projects is based on the Population Information Act (661/2009) and Population Information Decree (128/2010). Today local register offices maintain residence details related to persons and their respective residences. Cooperating with municipal authorities, local register offices are also responsible for various changes and corrections to building information and maintain address and voting district information.
Real estate information
Basic real estate information, units of real estate and details of real estate owners were sourced from land registers when the Population Information System was established between 1969 and 1972. After the collection of basic data, in 1970s and 1980s local population register authorities (today local register offices) detected the personal identity codes and any missing personal details of real estate owners and recorded any changes in ownership to the system on the basis of notifications of contracts of sale.
Today real estate information contained in the Population Information System is maintained with the help of the cadastral register of the National Land Survey of Finland. Information is updated once a week. The Population Information Act (661/2009) lays down provisions on the maintenance of real estate information.