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Helsinki region includes both urban and rural areas. At the heart of the region lies Helsinki itself surrounded by three smaller cities. Together they form the metropolitan area. Additionally, included in the study area is a relatively large surrounding region with smaller cities and towns as sub-centres.

The metropolitan area has the largest concentration of people in Finland. The total number of inhabitants in the study area is over 1.6 million people (out of 5.2 million in the whole country). Of this, 1 million people live in the metropolitan area. The growth has been significant especially after the second world war and then levelling down in the seventies and eighties. In the 1990's the region was growing faster once again.

Helsinki region comprises about one third of the national GDP of Finland. In addition to its administrative status as the capital city and home for industry headquarters, the economy of the region is based on retail, wholesale and private services. The region, therefore, has a surplus in its trade with the rest of the country. While the traditional manufacturing industries have been declining, the share of high-technology indus-tries and services has been growing. The large and concentrated traditional indus-tries such as metal and paper are not typically located in the region. Consequently, the foreign exports are not so dominant as for the rest of the country. As a big con-centration of population, the level of imports is high.
A sign of the structural change in the 1990s is the stratification of population and re-gions. The spread in income levels has increased along with the demand for the less educated labour force diminishing. The Helsinki Metropolitan area and its surround-ings form a region that has been the most successful one in the country, but also within the region itself certain areas are prosperous while others are impoverished.

photo of helsinki