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Published: 2016-05-02
Nr 2016:


Lena Lundkvist

Migration results in a younger population

Migration to Sweden has been significant in recent years and has contributed to an increased population. Statistics Sweden has estimated how the population would have looked like if we did not have any immigration or emigration since 1970. Population growth would have come to a standstill and we would have had a higher proportion of elderly persons.

Illustration a bunch of people

In 1969, roughly 8 million people lived in Sweden, of whom nearly 500 000, or 6 percent, were born abroad. Since then, immigration to Sweden as well as emigration from here has increased. During the period 1970-2015, 2.8 million people have immigrated while at the same time, 1.6 million people have emigrated. Migration has thus contributed to roughly 1 million more people in Sweden. Besides contributing to an increased population themselves, immigrants also contribute to the population with the children they give birth to in Sweden. Many people who immigrate are aged 20-35, but as these people grow older, the number of deaths is also affected.

Migration has contributed to a younger population

Population 2015, by age and sex. Number

Chart Population 2015, by age and sex.

The figure shows Sweden's population in 2015. The orange field shows the contribution of migration to the population.

Today nearly 10 million people live in Sweden and over 1.6 million, or 17 percent are born abroad. Sweden has an aging population. The proportion that is over age 65 is increasing, at the same time as the proportion of children and young people is decreasing, while the share of those who are actively working remains constant. In the age group 20-64 years, the number and proportion of foreign born is highest. What would this development look like without migration?

To estimate this, a hypothetical calculation has been done for population development between 1970 and 2015 if Sweden had closed its borders completely. The calculation does not include any immigration to Sweden or emigration from Sweden, either by Swedish born persons or the foreign born persons who lived in Sweden in 1969. The number of persons born every year has been calculated with the average number of children each woman gave birth to and the number of deaths with the death risk of each year.

Without migration Sweden would have had a stagnating population. Without any migration, the population in 2015 would largely look like the population in 1969, that is, nearly 2 million fewer persons than today. The number of births would be lower and the difference from the actual population would increase for each year. The effect would also double after 25-35 years, when those who were born in the beginning of the period reach childbearing ages. In 2015, some 83 000 fewer children would have been born, compared to the actual figure for births at 115 000 during the year. However, the number of deaths would not have been affected, because most of the immigrants are of younger ages. Since the middle of the 1970s, roughly 90 000 persons have died each year, and that number would have been the same even without migration.

quote: Sex distribution is only affected marginally by migration.

The reduced number of births means that there would have been about 500 000 fewer persons below age 20 than there are today. In addition, a reduced number of births after 20 years also leads to a reduced number of persons of economically active ages 20-64. This is the age group that is most affected by migration; in addition to the reduced inflow of persons aged 20, this age group is affected because most of the migrants are in this age group. This age group would be nearly one million fewer persons than it is today. The older age group would hardly be affected. Most persons who immigrate or emigrate are aged 20-35, and it is only 30-45 years after time of migration that those over age 65 are affected.

Since 1969 life expectancy in Sweden has increased; the number as well as the proportion of those age 65 and older has increased. Without immigration, the number of those over age 65 would have been just as large as today, but since the population had been smaller, this group would have comprised a larger part of the population: 24 percent compared with 20 percent as it is today. For those who are under age 20, the number is about the same in 2015 as in 1969, but without migration this group would have comprised more than 500 000 fewer, and the share would have been 20 percent, compared to 23 percent. This means that in 2015 without migration, more people would be over age 65 than those below age 20.

Without migration population growth would cease

Observed population development and population development without migration, 1940-2015

Chart Observed population development and population development without migration, 1940-2015

In 2015 Sweden's population was close to 9.9 million. If we had not had any migration since 1970, the population would have been slightly less than 8.1 million.

Without migration, the proportion of those over age 65 would be larger

Proportion in the population of different ages, 1969 and 2015

1969 year's
2015 year's
2015 year's
without migration
0-19 years225698
20-64 years336756
65 and older534545
Number (millions)238637

20 percent of the population in 2015 was age 65 or older. Without migration this proportion would have been larger, 24 percent.

The sex distribution is only affected marginally by migration. The spring of 2015 was the first time that there were more men than women in Sweden. In this hypothetical calculation, this would have occurred somewhat later, during the spring of 2016.

For all the years since 1995 in our hypothetical population, fewer children were born than deaths occurred and the population had slowly begun to decrease. This decrease would have continued forever with an accelerated pace if childbirths had not increased. To reach a situation where the population would not decrease, women would need to give birth to slightly more than two children each. Childbearing in Sweden has been relatively stable; women born after 1940 have on average given birth to nearly two children each. The increasing life expectancy and the baby boom around 1990 had postponed the population decrease to a later time in our hypothetical population.

In a situation with a stagnating population, it is probable that fertility in particular, but also mortality, would have developed differently than what actually occurred. For example, in this situation, it is possible that changes in parental allowances would have been made to encourage more births.

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