Crowds on the Drottninggatan shopping street in Stockholm in December last year. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
According to a new report by Statistics Sweden, the population grew by just 0.5 percent last year, as the coronavirus pandemic led to a sharp drop in net migration and an increase in the number of deaths. This represents the lowest increase since 2005, when the population grew by 0.4 percent.
“The population increase is nearly half as large as in the previous year,” said Linus Garp, population statistician at Statistics Sweden, in a statement. “We have to go back to 2005 to find a smaller increase in the population, both in relative and absolute numbers.”
Lower positive net migration (how many more people are entering than leaving Sweden) had the biggest impact on the population growth. It decreased by 50.7 percent compared with 2019. The excess of births (how many more people are born than die) decreased by 41.9 percent.
“The number of births was roughly the same in 2020 as in 2019, which means the drop in natural increase is nearly entirely due to an increase in the number of deaths,” Garp added.
There were 98,124 deaths in 2020, which is 10.5 percent (9,358 deaths) higher than in 2019, and 7.9 percent higher than the five-year average between 2015–2019.
The high death rate had less of an impact on the annual population growth than the fall in the number of people immigrating to Sweden, which in 2020 was at the lowest level in 15 years, with 82,518 registering their arrival. The number of people leaving the country slightly increased to 48,937.
Excess mortality (the number of deaths compared to the five-year average), was greater in 2020 than in any year since the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 (when Sweden's population was almost half of what it is now), but it was nonetheless lower than in most other European countries.
In the European Union, only Greece, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Denmark and Latvia has excess mortality lower than 7.8 percent, reported the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. Norway, with excess mortality of -0.4 actually was unique in the region in that fewer people died in 2020 than on average over the last five years.
“Compared to our Nordic neighbours we have had a much higher excess mortality over the last year, but there are of course countries who have had it tougher than Sweden,” Garp said.