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Country by country: Where do Sweden’s newest foreign residents come from?

More people moved to Sweden last year than the year before. But where do they all come from?

Country by country: Where do Sweden's newest foreign residents come from?
People with suitcases in the arrivals hall at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Immigration to Sweden increased year-on-year in 2021 for the first time since 2016, when around 163,000 new residents were added to the country’s population register, according to fresh data by national number crunchers Statistics Sweden.

In total, 90,631 people moved to Sweden last year, up 9.8 percent on 2020.

The largest group of immigrants, 11 percent, were Swedes returning to their country of birth.

This was followed by people born in India. A total of 6,017 people born in India moved to Sweden last year, an increase of 48.2 percent on the previous year.

The next largest groups were from Syria (3,538 people born in Syria became registered as residents last year), closely followed by Germany (3,501) and Pakistan (3,240).

Fewer people emigrated from Sweden last year, with 48,284 people moving out – a decrease of 1.3 percent compared to 2020, according to Statistics Sweden’s data.

Again, most of these were native Swedes – 16,975 in total – of whom 10.4 percent moved to the UK, 10 percent moved to Norway and 8.3 percent moved to Denmark.

More than half of all emigrants last year (55.9 percent), at least the ones who were not born in Sweden, returned to their country of birth. This was particularly common among people born in Finland, with 1,609 Finnish-born people returning to Finland from Sweden.

The number of foreign-born residents in Sweden grew to 2,090,503 people last year, an increase of 2.1 percent. Syria, Iraq and Finland make up the top three countries of birth. Sweden’s total population stood at 10,452,326 at the turn of the year.

If you are new to Sweden, welcome! We hope you’ll like it here. The Local has plenty of guides, analysis and features aimed at newcomers and long-term residents, and if there’s a topic you’ve got questions about or think we should cover, you’re always welcome to get in touch. And for anyone wondering how they can stay in Sweden forever, here’s our guide.

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Babies and immigrants: Sweden’s population continues to grow, but slowly

Sweden’s total population has almost reached 10.5 million people, according to new statistics which also reveal the top countries new arrivals came from last year.

Babies and immigrants: Sweden's population continues to grow, but slowly

Sweden’s population grew by 73,031 people to a grand total of 10,452,326 people in 2021, according to national number crunchers Statistics Sweden’s latest figures.

That’s a relatively small growth, in fact the smallest since 2005 with the exception of 2020, when the population of Sweden grew by just over 51,000 people (or in relative terms, 0.5 percent – even less than the country’s 0.7 percent population growth in 2021).

“The population is increasing for two reasons. Partly because more people are born than die, partly because more immigrate than emigrate. Most of the increase is explained by the immigration surplus,” said Statistics Sweden analyst Rasmus Andersson in a statement.

A total of 90,631 people moved to Sweden last year, and 48,284 left the country. The most common country of birth among new immigrants was Sweden, followed by India and Syria in second and third place.

Around 6,000 fewer people died compared to 2020. But the 91,958 deaths in 2021 were still more than the yearly average in the five years before the pandemic (90,962).

“In 2020 we saw an unusually large increase in the number of deaths compared to the years prior. The number of deaths in 2021 was higher than 2019 but in line with 2017 and 2018,” said Andersson.

But the number of births also rose slightly, with a birth surplus of 22,305 people.

The population increased the most in the western city of Gothenburg (4,493, including births as well as people arriving from abroad and other parts of Sweden), followed by Malmö in the south (3,800), and Uppsala (3,757) and Stockholm (3,219) in central Sweden.

Commuter towns Knivsta, Österåker and Upplands-Bro – all in the Stockholm and Uppsala area – had the largest relative increase: 3.7, 3.4 and 2.9 percent, respectively.