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IMMIGRATION

Ukrainian refugees helped boost Norwegian population in the second quarter

A large increase in immigration from Ukraine helped offset a low number of births and contributed to an overall growth in the population, figures from Statistics Norway released on Thursday show. 

Pictured are people on Karl Johan Street in central Oslo.
Norway's population grew during the second quarter. Pictured are people on Karl Johan Street. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

At the end of the second quarter, Norway’s population was 5,455,600, new figures from national data agency Statistics Norway (SSB) show. 

This correlates to population growth of around 20,000 during the second quarter. The figures for the second quarter are the first time the population has risen above 15,000 during the same period since 2011. 

Part of the reason for the population growth, according to Statistics Norway, is the influx of Ukrainian refugees into the country due to the war in Ukraine. 

“The number is unusual, but not unexpected, due to the war in Ukraine and the refugees from there,” Magnus Haug, adviser at Statistics Norway, said in a report on the figures

In total, 26,100 people immigrated to Norway during the second quarter, with the number of people leaving Norway totalling 8,400. 

Norway’s population grew despite an almost record low number of babies being born during the period. 

“Figures for both the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2022 show that the normal development of recent years with falling birth rates is back. In the second quarter, 13,300 children were born, the lowest for a second quarter during the 25 years Statistics Norway has kept such quarterly statistics,” Haug said. 

The birth surplus- births minus deaths- was at a 20-year low too. The birth surplus during the 2nd quarter was 2,400. 

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NORWAY AND SWEDEN

‘Party Swedes, go home’: Do Swedish immigrants get a bad rep in Norway?

They might be close neighbours with a seemingly shared culture and identity, but Swedish immigrants have not always found it easy to settle in Norway, and have often been the butt of jokes and even abuse, explains Xander Brett.

'Party Swedes, go home': Do Swedish immigrants get a bad rep in Norway?

In May 2008, a wall on St Olavs gate street, Oslo, was graffitied. Scrawled across it, the words: ‘Partysvensker go home!’. The slogan, asking ‘party Swedes’ to leave Norway, played with neo-Nazi chants of the 1980s and 90s.

But, with free movement of people and a shared Nordic identity, Swedes in Norway had a history of being treated as ‘different immigrants’, or often simply not as immigrants at all.

The slogan, therefore, was generally interpreted as something benign and humorous. That was until a later addition to the wall, in 2009, that asked, ‘men Norge är ju svenskt?’ (But isn’t Norway Swedish anyway?’).

Rebecca Jafari, writing for Norwegian tabloid Dagsavisen, picked up on the debate. ‘They work hard,’ she wrote, ‘are service minded, rarely engage in crime, and pay taxes. Yet Swedes are subject to bullying by their neighbours.’

In 2014, the problems faced by some young Swedish immigrants in Norway were depicted by director Ronnie Sandahl, who named his latest feature film Svenskjævel (Swedish Devil).

The movie follows 23-year-old Dino as she arrives in Oslo to seek a life of affluence and happiness, only to be thrown into a cycle of odd jobs and partying.

It was a journey that seemed to document the life of an archetypal ‘partysvensk’, and it was held up as an example of the treatment awaiting young Swedes moving over the border.

By the late 2000s, Swedes had grown to be Norway’s second largest immigrant community (after Poles). The unique combination of high youth unemployment back home, versus a strong labour market further west, saw them flood into higher salaried jobs from hospitality to engineering.

At the same time, Norwegians continued to flock the other way, heading over the border to take advantage of Sweden’s low prices. Travelling along the border, the vast supermarkets are clear to see, erected just a few kilometres into Swedish territory, their car parks full of Norwegian registration plates.

Academic Ida Tolgensbakk wrote a 2015 study that examined how young Swedish workers were treated on arrival in Norway. She says the term ‘partysvensker’ is generally used more humorously than other immigrant chants, but that doesn’t mean everyone on the receiving end finds it fun.

“Some find it funny,” she tells The Local, “interpreting it as a sign of equality and closeness. Others find it stigmatising and racist.”

Tolgensbakk based her research on interviews, fieldwork, and a media study. She says Norwegians and Swedes have a long history of mutual jokes dating back to the 1970s.

“Swedes made jokes about Norwegians and vice-versa. However, at that point, there was no significant migration between the two countries, so it was merely neighbourly banter. The meaning changed when one neighbour became a minority in another,” she explains. 

Norway had been independent for years, but there was, perhaps, some lingering unease among Swedes about being the butt of jokes in a country they ruled until 1905.

In 2013, researching for Swedish daily Aftonbladet, journalists Jerker Ivarsson and Victor Stenquist went ‘on location in Oslo to meet Swedish workers aged 20 to 30.

Two-thirds of Swedish immigrants they spoke to had settled in Oslo, and it was to this carefree age group the term ‘partysvensker’ seemed to apply to. However, the then 23-year-old bartender Sarah Thegerström told them ‘partysvensker’ was far from a joke and spoke of the all-too-common bullying experiences of Swedes in her profession (she, apparently, was the victim of frequent anti-Swedish abuse from drunken customers herself).

Writing for Nyheter 24, meanwhile, Haviet Kok was in Norway when he took a phone call from his landlord. Kok says he was harassed by a Norwegian passer-by who had heard his Swedish accent and swore and pleaded that he and his compatriots cross back over the border.

Despite their infrequency, Tolgensbakk, author of the 2015 report, admits these experiences are far from non-existent. Many of the respondents to her study found it difficult to get to know their Norwegian neighbours, and she says they were often naïve in their belief that their culture was identical.

“If you look at the three Scandinavian nations from abroad,” she tells The Local, “you’d think we’re the same country: our histories are intertwined, our languages mutually intelligible. But when you get up close, there are noticeable pegs that separate us. We have our own peculiarities, and that can be confusing if you expect everything to be the same.”

For his part, migration researcher Jan Horgen Friberg says that in the social hierarchy of Norway’s immigrant groups, Swedes are at the top. “Although they may face negative stereotypes,” he says to The Local, “I think the term ‘racism’ is drawing it way too far.”

Along with reports of jokes, banter, even abuse, and struggles to settle in – which are not just limited to Swedes in Norway, there are, of course, many positive experiences of Swedes moving across the border.

Tea Lovcalic, who moved to Norway from Lund in southern Sweden, is perhaps just one of many Swedes who settle smoothly into life in Norway.

She says she felt included straight away.

“The experience was positive and welcoming, both in the workplace and out.”

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