According to Statistics Finland, Swedish is the mother tongue of about 270,000 people in mainland Finland and of about 25,000 people in Åland, a self-governing archipelago of islands off the west coast of Finland, where Swedish speakers constitute a majority. Swedish-speakers comprise 5.4% of the total Finnish population or about 4.9% without Åland. The proportion has been steadily diminishing since the early 19th century, when Swedish was the mother tongue of approximately 15% of the population and considered a prestige language. According to a statistical analysis made by Fjalar Finnäs, the population of the minority group is today stable and may even be increasing slightly in total numbers since more parents from bilingual families tend to register their children as Swedish speakers. It is estimated that 70% of bilingual families—that is, ones with one parent Finnish-speaking and the other Swedish-speaking—register their children as Swedish-speaking.
The Swedish term finlandssvensk (literally Finland-Swede), which is used by the group itself, does not have an established English translation. The Society of Swedish Authors in Finland and the main political institutions for the Swedish-speaking minority such as the Swedish People's Party and Swedish Assembly of Finland use the expression Swedish-speaking population of Finland, but Swedish-speaking NGOs often use the term Finland-Swedes.
The Research Institute for the Languages of Finland proposes Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedish Finns, or Finland-Swedes, the first of which is the sole form used on the institute's website. Some debators insist for the use of the more traditional English-language form, Finland-Swedes, as they view the labelling of them as Swedish-speaking Finns as a way of depriving them their ethnic affiliation, reducing it to merely a matter of language and de-emphasising the "Swedish part" of Finland-Swedish identity, i.e. their relations to Sweden.
Among Finnish Americans the term Swede-Finn became dominant before the independence of Finland in 1917, and the term has remained common to the present, despite later immigrants tending to use different terms such as Finland-Swede. The expressions Swedish-speaking Finns, Swedes of Finland, Finland Swedes, Finnish Swedes, and Swedish Finns are all used in academic literature.
The age of the Swedish-speaking population in the territory that today constitutes Finland was a subject of fierce debate in the early 20th century as a part of the Finland's language strife. Some Finland-Swede scholars like Ralf Saxén, Knut Hugo Pipping and Tor Karsten used place names trying to prove that the Swedish settlement in Finland dates back to prehistoric times. Their views where opposed mainly by Heikki Ojansuu in the 1920s. In 1966, the historian Hämäläinen (as referenced by McRae 1993) addressed the strong correlation between the scholar's mother-tongue and the views on the age and continuity of the Scandinavian settlement history of Finland.