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Over the course of the last few decades the Nordic countries have changed radically. Since 1990 the population of the Nordic region has grown by 15 percent. Two thirds of the growth of the population is a result of net-immigration, i.e. the difference between immigration and emigration.

All together 2.9 million people have moved to live to the Nordic countries over the last decade. Previously, the immigrants of the Nordic region originated mainly from other Nordic countries. Nowadays, they come from a large number of countries. The state of the world strongly influences migration and many refugees have fled to the Nordic countries. For the countries this represents both opportunities and challenges. Integration has become a central issue on the agenda.


Since 1990 the population of the Nordic region (Norden) has grown by 15 percent. About 26,7 million people were living in the region in 2016. Two thirds of the growth of the population is a result of net-immigration, meaning the difference between immigration and emigration. Immigration to the Nordic countries has grown permanently during the last ten years, based on the widening of the EU and on the fact that a big part of refugees has made their way to Norden during the last years. All together 2,9 million people have moved to live to the Nordic countries in the last decade.

In Sweden, Norway and Denmark immigration has played the biggest role in the growth of the population. In Iceland the growth of population has mainly been based on a high number of births. In Finland the balance between immigration and natural growth of population is almost equal.

The countries of origin of the immigrants has become more varied

Earlier the immigrants of the Nordic region used to originate mainly from other Nordic countries. Following the widened of the EU in the beginning of this century, many people started to come to Norden from the new member states of the EU, especially from Poland. In Finland a large number of immigrants came from Estonia and from previous Soviet republics. The migration flow of refugees
arriving in some of the Nordic countries during the recent years has usually been related to countries like Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

A larger number of population of the Nordic region is born in foreign countries

The proportion of migrants has internationally grown by 50 percent since the 1990-ies. But in the Nordic region this proportion has grown twice. Since the 1990-ies the number of people born in other countries has grown in the Nordic region from 1,3 to 3,0 million inhabitants.

A young age structure

The foreign born population in the Nordic countries has a young age structure. In the age group of 25-35 years their share of the population is bigger compared to the domestic population in all age groups. This means that being young people, they have a high potential to take part in the working life and to decrease the medium age of the Nordic population.

Immigration unevenly divided between regions

The immigration to the different regions in Norden differs concerning the scope, countries of origin, gender, education and other kind of background and also the reasons of migration (for example work, family, asylum-seeking).

Regional differences

Most of the regions in Norway, many regions in southern Sweden, southern Finland and regions around Reykjavik in Iceland have a growing population both because of a higher number of births compared to the number of deaths, and because of net-immigration.

The contrary trend is noticeable in Finnish Lapland and certain regions in southern Finland where the population is decreasing both because of the low number of births and because of outwards migration.

Noticeable differences between international and domestic migration

Most of the northern and faraway regions in Norway, Iceland, Finland and Denmark have had moderate or remarkable emigration, while southern Sweden and regions around the capitals of the countries have a net-immigration from the regions. At the same time there is a noticeable trend of net-profit from the international immigration in almost all regions in Norden.

The biggest part of the foreign born population can be found in southern and central Sweden, in the urban regions of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö and in Oslo and Bergen in Norway. Even internationally Sweden and Norway have a higher proportion of foreign born population than any other Nordic country.



Nordens välfärdscenter | tel: +46 8 545 536 00 | | En institution under Nordiska ministerrådet