Municipalities of Finland

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Municipalities of Finland
Suomen kunnat (Finnish)
Finlands kommuner (Swedish)
  • Also known as:
  • Kaupunki, stad
Finnish municipalities 2020.png
Category Municipality
Location Finland
Found in regions
Number309 (list) (as of 2021)
PopulationsLargest: Helsinki (pop. 657,674)
Smallest: Sottunga (pop. 101)
AreasLargest: Inari (17,333.65 km2)
Smallest: Kauniainen (6 km2)
  • Municipal council

The municipalities (Finnish : kunta; Swedish : kommun) represent the local level of administration in Finland and act as the fundamental, self-governing administrative units of the country. The entire country is incorporated into municipalities and legally, all municipalities are equal, although certain municipalities are called cities or towns (Finnish : kaupunki; Swedish : stad). Municipalities have the right to levy a flat percentual income tax, which is between 16 and 22 percent, and they provide two thirds of public services. Municipalities control many community services, such as schools, health care and the water supply, and local streets. They do not maintain highways, set laws or keep police forces, which are responsibilities of the central government.



Municipalities have council-manager government: they are governed by an elected council (kunnanvaltuusto, kommunfullmäktige), which is legally autonomous and answers only to the voters. The size of the council is proportional to the population, the extremes being 9 in Sottunga and 85 in Helsinki. A subsection of the council, the municipal executive board (kunnanhallitus), controls the municipal government and monitors the implementation of decisions of the council. Its decisions must be approved by the council. Unlike national cabinets, its composition is derived from the composition of the council, not along government-opposition lines. Furthermore, individual decisions are prepared in specialized municipal boards (lautakunta) for a council meeting, which include, for example, zoning, social assistance, and education boards. Council, executive board, and municipal board memberships are elected positions of responsibility, not full-time jobs. Remuneration depends on the municipality and position, but is generally nominal or modest: a regular council member is paid 70 euro on average on a per-meeting basis (2017). [1]

Municipal managers (kaupunginjohtaja, stadsdirektör for cities, kunnanjohtaja, kommunsdirektör for other municipalities) are civil servants named by the council. The city manager of Helsinki is called ylipormestari / överborgmästare "Lord Mayor" for historical reasons. There were previously no mayors in Finland, but after a change in law, Tampere was first city to elect a mayor (pormestari / borgmästare) in 2007. The mayor is not, however, currently elected directly, but by the municipal council. The mayor acts as municipal manager and as a speaker of municipal council.

Although municipalities do not have police or legislative powers, local ordinances concerning traffic can be set, and municipal parking inspectors can give parking tickets. Municipalities are legal persons and can appear in an administrative court. Likewise, the state of Finland is a separate legal person.

Excluding judicial review of formal compliance to administrative law, municipalities are independent and not a part of a local state hierarchy. Municipalities cooperate in regions of Finland. State agencies have jurisdictions spanning one or more regions: each region is served by an ely-keskus (elinkeino-, liikenne- ja ympäristökeskus) on matters of employment, the economy, transport and environment, while law and environmental enforcement is handled by the local aluehallintovirasto, governing multi-region jurisdictions termed alue.-G.H-

Taxation and revenue

Residents pay a municipal tax that is a form of income tax, which is the mainstay of the income of a municipality (42% of income). Municipal tax is nominally a flat tax that is levied from a broader population (including lower income levels) than progressive state income tax, which is collected only from medium to high income earners. However, in practice even the municipal tax is progressive due to generous deductions granted to the lowest income levels. The pre-deduction base tax varies from 16% in affluent Kauniainen to 20% or more in a number of small rural municipalities. Next to the municipal tax, municipalities receive funding from the state budget (valtionapu, 19% of income). This funding is means-tested to municipality wealth and serves to balance the differences in municipal tax revenue. [2] Besides taxes, sales revenue, fees and profit of operations also form a substantial share of municipal income (21%). [2]

Additionally, municipalities levy a property tax, amounting to 3.6% of income, which is comparatively low: the annual fee is 0.32-0.75% of net present value for permanent residences and 0.50-1.00% for leisure properties like summer cottages as well as undeveloped plots. This is always paid by the owner, never a tenant directly, unlike the council tax. Municipalities receive a share of corporate tax revenue (yhteisövero) from companies having a place of business in the municipality (3.8% of income).

Some municipal functions receive direct funding both from the municipality and the state, e.g. AMK vocational colleges.

Tasks and services

Finland has an extensive welfare state, and municipalities are responsible for much of the services to that end. Tasks of the municipalities are as follows: [3]

Although municipalities are responsible for their own finances, there is much highly specific legislation and regulation that requires the services to be provided up to a standard. Thus, although municipalities have the power to voluntarily spend tax-generated income, they are required to first allocate funds to legally prescribed services.

Municipalities may provide some of these services through corporations that they own or from private companies that they regulate. For example, Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) provides public transport services in the capital area.


Municipalities of Finland by language (2016-present):
Beige: unilingually Finnish
Dark blue: unilingually Swedish
Turquoise: bilingual, majority language Finnish, minority language Swedish
Light blue: bilingual, majority language Swedish, minority language Finnish
Wine: majority language Finnish and one or three Sami languages as minority languages Languages of Finnish municipalities (2016).svg
Municipalities of Finland by language (2016–present):
Beige: unilingually Finnish
Dark blue: unilingually Swedish
Turquoise: bilingual, majority language Finnish, minority language Swedish
Light blue: bilingual, majority language Swedish, minority language Finnish
Wine: majority language Finnish and one or three Sami languages as minority languages

As of 2020, there are 310 municipalities in Finland, of which 107 are cities or towns (kaupunki). Sixteen municipalities are unilingually Swedish (all in the autonomous Åland region), while 33 are bilingual: 15 with Swedish as the majority language (all but four in Ostrobothnia) and 18 with Finnish as the majority language (all but five in Uusimaa region). Four municipalities in northern Lapland (Utsjoki, Inari, Sodankylä and Enontekiö) have one or all of the three Sami languages spoken in Finland as an official language.

Finnish municipalities can choose to be called either kaupunki (city or town) or kunta (small town or rural municipality). Although the Finnish Environment Institute classifies urban settlements with over 15,000 inhabitants as kaupunki, [4] municipalities can name themselves kaupunki with fewer inhabitants. There are 43,895 inhabitants in Nurmijärvi, the largest kunta in Finland, and 1,283 inhabitants in Kaskinen, the smallest kaupunki, so the kunta–kaupunki categorisation mainly concerns the name of the municipality.

The areas of the municipalities vary, as the population is the primary criterion for forming a municipality. The largest municipalities in size are found in Lapland, of which the largest is Inari at 17,333.65 km2 (6,692.56 sq mi) (130 km square). The smallest municipalities are very small towns. Kaskinen is an independent town with a land area of only 10.49 km2 (4.05 sq mi). Kauniainen, which was originally a corporation in Espoo, is only 6.00 km2 (2.32 sq mi). [5]


Municipalities were originally parishes. The old word for a municipality is pitäjä, 'keeper', because when the system was instituted, one municipality kept one minister. Municipalities were divided into villages, which consisted of individual properties. Borders between properties and thus municipalities were defined by oral agreements passed down from generation to generation; usually along straight lines between defined markers such as boulders. Medieval documentation survives only from legal disputes concerning borders. In the 18th century, King Gustaf III implemented the Great Partition, where common lands were redistributed into larger properties, and claimed all unclaimed land to the crown. Thus, there is no "leftover" land outside the jurisdiction of municipalities, as all land belongs to either to a private property or to the government. The secular government divided the properties to taxable units (villages and secular municipalities) according to its own convenience, which were not necessarily convergent with parishes. Furthermore, cities were chartered separately. Up to 1734, the law was different in cities than in rural municipalities.

In 1865, the modern municipalities were established as secular entities separate from the parishes. The reform was inspired by the Swedish municipal reforms of 1862. Up to 1964, cities financed their own police and registry services. Until 1977 municipalities were divided into cities (kaupunki, stad), market towns (kauppala, köping) and rural municipalities (maalaiskunta, landskommun). The market town category was abolished and these were renamed as cities. The rest of the municipalities were classified as 'other municipalities'. All municipalities called maalaiskunta were eventually either merged to their parent cities or changed their names. From 1995 onwards only 'municipality' is recognized by law and any municipality is allowed to call itself a city.

Identification and heraldry

The coat of arms of Vantaa, incorporating heraldic elements of the region of Uusimaa, such as azure color and argent Vantaa.vaakuna.svg
The coat of arms of Vantaa, incorporating heraldic elements of the region of Uusimaa, such as azure color and argent

Not all municipalities have an obvious urban center; indeed, rural municipalities are often composed of distributed rural villages. Although the church village (kirkonkylä, abbreviated kk) is the historical center, the largest or administrative center may be in another village. For example, Askola has a church village (Askolan kirkonkylä), but its administrative center is in Monninkylä. Often, the church village has the same name as the municipality, as with Askola. However, this is not necessarily so, e.g. Enontekiö is governed from Hetta; these villages are often erroneously labeled in maps. This is expected as the name of the municipality refers to the entire parish, not just a single center like a church village. Villages have no administrative role, although some have voluntary village associations (kyläyhdistys) and other non-governmental public life.

Although related, urban areas in Finland (taajama) are not local administrative units. A catalog is independently compiled each year by Statistics Finland, a state agency, and used primarily for traffic-related purposes (signage, speed limits, and highway planning). There are 745 officially recognized urban areas in Finland, 49 of which have more than 10,000 inhabitants and six more than 100,000.

Each municipality has a distinct coat of arms. They are posted on the municipal borders and shown in official documents representing the municipality. The coats of arms for many municipalities have been designed in the modern era, many of them by Gustaf von Numers. In addition, municipalities like Vantaa since 2015 and Helsinki since 2017 have a logo distinct from their coat of arms.

Capital region

Distinctively, the capital area, or Greater Helsinki, has no special arrangements. The area consists of four entirely independent cities that form a continuous conurbation. Greater Helsinki has grown in population and area relatively quickly: the nearby municipalities, considered rural only 50 years ago, have become suburbs, and the growth is projected to continue. A state-imposed merger of Helsinki and a part of Sipoo, a rural, 40% Swedish-speaking municipality adjacent to Greater Helsinki, was recently approved by the government, counter to the opinion of the Sipoo municipal council. This area will effectively become a new (and Finnish-speaking) suburb with multiple times the inhabitants than there are in Sipoo.

Mergers and reform

There is currently a heated political debate in Finland about reforming the municipality system. Essentially, a multitude of small municipalities is seen as detrimental to the provision of public services, having originated during Finland's agrarian years. As a result, there have been suggestions of state-imposed mergers. A committee led by the former Minister for Regional and Municipal Affairs, Hannes Manninen, suggested creating a two-tier system of municipalities with different powers, while the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities (Kuntaliitto) favoured a system where municipalities would be units of at least 20,000–30,000 inhabitants, cf. the current median at 4,700. The motion was inspired by a similar reform in Denmark (see Municipalities of Denmark). The former government (Vanhanen II), however, planned to not impose mergers.

Recently, many voluntary mergers have been agreed on. [6] Ten mergers were completed in 2005, one in 2006, 14 in 2007 and one in 2008. In 2009, there were even more, many of which consolidated more than two municipalities. Several cities merged with surrounding rural municipalities in Hämeenlinna, Salo, Kouvola, Seinäjoki, Naantali, Kauhava, Lohja, Raseborg, Jyväskylä and Oulu in 2009. In total, there were 32 mergers, involving 99 municipalities, that reduced the number of municipalities by 67. The year 2009 also marked the end of the last maalaiskunta , a municipality surrounding a city but sharing the name, in Jyväskylä. There were four mergers in 2010, six in 2011, ten in 2013, three in 2015, four in 2016, two in 2017 and one in 2020. In the period 2005–2020, the number of municipalities was voluntarily reduced from 444 to 310.

In 2012, Katainen's government published an extensive plan aiming at merging municipalities to reach a target of population 20,000 per municipality. Commuter belts have also been proposed as a target by a government committee, such that municipalities where more than 35% of workforce commutes would be subject to a merger. [7]

The Sipilä cabinet, from 2015, has been preparing a significant reform of health and social services (sote-uudistus), aimed at increasing choice between municipal and private healthcare, and assigning some healthcare responsibilities into larger units than a municipality.

Municipalities by regions


See also

Related Research Articles

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Vantaa City in Uusimaa, Finland

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Kauniainen town in the Capital Region of Greater Helsinki, Finland

Kauniainen is a small town and a municipality of 10,148 inhabitants in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland. It is surrounded by the City of Espoo, in the Capital Region of Greater Helsinki. Kauniainen was founded by a corporation in 1906, AB Grankulla, that parcelled land and created a suburb for villas; Kauniainen received the status of a market town in 1920, the Finnish name in 1949, and the title of kaupunki in 1972.

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Kokkola Town in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland

Kokkola is a town and municipality of Finland. The town is located in the Central Ostrobothnia region. The town has a population of 47,927 and covers an area of 2,730.80 square kilometres (1,054.37 sq mi) of which 1,286.61 km2 (496.76 sq mi) is water. The population density is 33.19 inhabitants per square kilometre (86.0/sq mi). Neighbour municipalities are Halsua, Kalajoki, Kannus, Kaustinen, Kronoby, Lestijärvi, Larsmo and Toholampi.

Heinola Town in Päijänne Tavastia, Finland

Heinola is a town and a municipality of 18,478 inhabitants located in the eastern part of the Päijänne Tavastia region, Finland. Neighbour municipalities: Asikkala, Hartola, Iitti, Kouvola, Mäntyharju, Nastola, Pertunmaa and Sysmä.

Sipoo Municipality in Uusimaa, Finland

Sipoo is a municipality of Finland. It is part of the Helsinki metropolitan area. The municipality has a population of 21,913 (31 March 2021) and covers an area of 698.60 square kilometres (269.73 sq mi) of which 358.97 km2 (138.60 sq mi) is water. The population density is 64.52 inhabitants per square kilometre (167.1/sq mi). The administrative center of the municipality is Nikkilä, which is located 34 kilometres (21 mi) northeast of the center of Helsinki.

Seinäjoki City in South Ostrobothnia, Finland

Seinäjoki is a city located in South Ostrobothnia, Finland; 80 kilometres (50 mi) east of Vaasa, 178 kilometres (111 mi) north of Tampere, 193 kilometres (120 mi) west of Jyväskylä and 324 kilometres (201 mi) southwest of Oulu. Seinäjoki originated around the Östermyra bruk iron and gunpowder factories founded in 1798. Seinäjoki became a municipality in 1868, market town in 1931 and town in 1960. In 2005, the municipality of Peräseinäjoki was merged into Seinäjoki, and in the beginning of 2009, the neighbouring municipalities of Nurmo and Ylistaro were consolidated with Seinäjoki. Seinäjoki is one of the fastest growing regional centers in Finland.

Ylivieska Town in Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland

Ylivieska is a town and municipality of Northern Ostrobothnia region, Finland. It has a population of 15,308, and it serves as the administrative centre for Kalajokilaakso and Pyhäjokilaakso, an area with about 90,000 inhabitants.

Ylöjärvi Town in Pirkanmaa, Finland

Ylöjärvi is a town and a municipality in the Pirkanmaa region, 14 kilometres (9 mi) northwest of Tampere and 189 kilometres (117 mi) north the capital city Helsinki in Finland.

Jyväskylän maalaiskunta

Jyväskylän maalaiskunta, 'The Rural Municipality of Jyväskylä' is a former municipality of Finland. Together with Korpilahti, Jyväskylän maalaiskunta was consolidated with Jyväskylä on 1 January 2009. It was the last municipality to carry the name maalaiskunta.

Järvenpää Municipality and town in Uusimaa, Finland

Järvenpää is a town and municipality in Finland. It is located on the Helsinki–Riihimäki railway track in Uusimaa region, some 37 kilometres (23 mi) north of Helsinki. Neighbouring municipalities are Tuusula, Sipoo and Mäntsälä. People also refer to Kerava as Järvenpää's neighbour, even though they do not technically share a border, thanks to the one kilometre-wide land area that belongs to Tuusula.

Kokemäki Town in Satakunta, Finland

Kokemäki is a town and municipality in the Satakunta Region of Finland. The town has a population of 6,990 and covers an area of 531.27 square kilometres (205.12 sq mi) of which 50.04 km2 (19.32 sq mi) is water. The population density is 14.53 inhabitants per square kilometre (37.6/sq mi).

Lohja City in Uusimaa, Finland

Lohja is a city and municipality in the Uusimaa region of Finland. The city has a population of 47,518 (2017), and it covers an area of 1,109.73 square kilometres (428.47 sq mi) of which 91.78 km2 (35.44 sq mi), or 8.3 percent, is water. The population density of Lohja is 131.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (340/sq mi). The municipality is bilingual, with the majority being Finnish and minority Swedish speakers. Lohja has the fourth-most summer houses of any municipality in Finland, with 8,468 located within the city as of June 2018. Lohja is located near Greater Helsinki, and it benefits from a good road network. It takes less than an hour to drive from Helsinki to Lohja on the E18 motorway, which is one of the most significant main road connections in Lohja next to Hangonväylä.

Pedersöre Municipality in Ostrobothnia, Finland

Pedersöre is a municipality of Finland. Its seat is in Bennäs.

Tuusula Municipality in Uusimaa, Finland

Tuusula is a municipality of Finland. It belongs to the Helsinki sub-region of the Uusimaa region. The municipality has a population of 38,957 (31 March 2021) and is by far the third largest municipality in Finland after Nurmijärvi and Kirkkonummi that doesn't use the town or city title by itself.

As of 2017, Finland is divided into:

Siikalatva Municipality in North Ostrobothnia, Finland

Siikalatva is a geographical area and a municipality of Finland. It lies 90 kilometres to the south of the city of Oulu and belongs to the North Ostrobothnia region.

Maalaiskunta (Finnish), landskommun (Swedish), "rural municipality", abbreviated mlk was one of the four types of municipality in Finland in 1865–1976. Other types in 1865–1959 were city and market town, in 1960–1976 old city, new city and market town. Maalaiskunta was the most common type of municipality. In the 1977 reform, all municipalities were given fully equal legal standing. Previous maalaiskuntas associated with a city retained their name. For example, Rovaniemen maalaiskunta surrounded the city of Rovaniemi, but were independently governed. From 2009, no municipalities will carry this name any more, after the merger of Jyväskylä and Jyväskylän mlk.


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  3. Tony Hagerlund verkkoviestintäpäällikkö. "Diaesitykset ja perustiedot kunnista". Retrieved 2013-08-02.
  4. "Alueluokkien kuvaukset". (in Finnish). Finnish Environment Institute SYKE. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  5. "Area of Finnish Municipalities 1.1.2018" (PDF). National Land Survey of Finland. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  6. Kuntaliitto. Ajankohtaiset kuntaliitokset, 2007.;29;348;4827;50631
  7. "Jopa 280 kunnan on käynnistettävä liitosselvitys". Turun Sanomat (in Finnish). TS-Group. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.