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Sweden and migration – in brief

Sweden has a relatively high level of immigration, with about 200 nationalities represented among its 9.6 million people. In 2012, around 103,000 immigrated to Sweden.

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Photo: Christian Holmér/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Foreign roots

In 2012, 20.1 per cent of residents had their roots outside Sweden. The largest foreign group is from Finland (170,000 people) but in recent years, immigrants have come mainly from Iraq, Poland and Afghanistan.

The Swedish Parliament and Government aim to have a migration policy that protects the right to asylum, facilitates freedom of movement across borders within the framework of regulated immigration, and promotes needs-based labour immigration.

Citizens of the EU/EEA and Switzerland are entitled to live and work in Sweden without acquiring a work or residence permit. Dual citizenship has been permitted since the Swedish Citizenship Act came into effect in 2001.

Migratory patterns

Migratory patterns within the country have changed enormously over the past 100 years as Swedes left the countryside to work in urban centres. Today, about 84 per cent of the Swedish population lives in urban areas compared with just 31 per cent in 1900.

Of course Swedes also move abroad. In 2012, a record 52,000 people emigrated from Sweden, most of whom moved to Norway, Denmark, the UK and the US. Thirty-eight per cent of the emigrants were Sweden-born.

A fun fact

Both in 2011 and 2012, more people emigrated from Sweden than in 1887, the peak year of the Swedish emigration to the US. But let’s not forget to put this into perspective. In 1887, the equivalent of 1 per cent of the population emigrated; in 2012, those who emigrated made up only 0.5 per cent. And unlike in the 1800s, a big share of today’s emigrants are expected to return to Sweden.

Last updated: 25 March 2014

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