The emigration from Sweden was greater last year than during the top years of the 19th century.

“We have passed 1887 (when 50,786 people emigrated from Sweden), which was a record year for immigration," says Lena Bernhardtz, at Statistiska Centralbyrån (Statistics Sweden). Sweden’s population increased with 67,285 people during 2011. This in spite of the record emigration. Last year 51,179 people emigrated from the country, of whom 22,000 were Swedish born. During the 19th and early 20th century, close to 1.5 million Swedes left the country and moved, mostly to the US. This because of the crisis in Sweden’s agriculture.* The mass emigration then continued for several years, but this time around, one year has topped the record of 1887.


What is the reason for the increase in emigration?
Says Bernhardtz: “I think it is because many Swedish companies have moved abroad, and to a certain degree Swedes follow. I’m thinking of call centers, perhaps they move to other countries, and then people who speak Swedish are needed.”
A difference from migration then and now, is that then people stayed in their new country, whereas now Swedes usually return home.

“In this global world, many take the opportunity to study or work abroad for a few years. It is a bit back and forth, whereas in the 19th century one escaped poverty. That’s not the issue now.” Today when Swedes move abroad it is first and foremost to other Nordic countries or English-speaking countries, but China is a newcomer that is high up on the list. During 2011, 1787 people moved to China, an increase with 80% from the year before.
“What’s surprising is, that China has become the 7th most popular country to migrate to,” continues Bernhardtz. While emigration increases, so does immigration. During 2011, Sweden received 96,467 immigrants, 15,000 among them were Swedish born, the rest of them are mostly Iraqis, Poles, and Afghanis. But the turbulences in the Arab world also means that immigration from Yemen, Libya, Egypt, and Syria has increased with 50%.

Release from SCB: Högre utvandring än på Karl-Oskars tid (In Swedish only)

*If you consider the nation's population then and now the numbers offer a different scenario: Sweden's population has doubled since and, considering this, the emigration was twice as high in 1887 as in 2011. One percent of the population emigrated in 1887 whereas in 2011 the number of emigrants represented .5 percent of the population.