Population declines in Sweden’s North are especially acute in rural areas

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - February 23, 2017
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Umeå is by far the largest city in northern Sweden.(Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Umeå is by far the largest city in northern Sweden.(Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)

There are now more than 10 million inhabitants in Sweden. Population growth is mainly due to a sharp increase in immigration the last few years.

The growth is, however, far from equally spread. Only six municipalities in mid- and southern Sweden had a tiny decline in population last year.

In Sweden’s two northernmost counties, Västerbotten and Norrbotten, 13 of 29 municipalities saw a decline in population from 2015 to 2016, according to the overview published by Statistics Sweden this week.

Rural areas in the north are the losers.

Pajala and Övertonreå on Sweden’s border to Finland in the north are worst-off in percentage of population. Pajala lost 77 inhabitants. Övertorneå is down 69 year-on-year. Also Gällivare, Storuman and Arvidsjaur face a negative population trend.

The big winners in the north are Umeå and Luleå, up 2,115 and 682 people last year. Also Skellefteå and Boden had a good growth. These four cities alone saved a growth in population in the two counties.

With 122,892 inhabitants, Umeå is the largest city in northern Sweden. In Norrbotten, Luleå is the largest with 76,770 inhabitants.

Västerbotten’s population is up 2,502 people and Norrbotten is up 837 since the beginning of 2016, countings by Statistics Sweden shows.

Luleå in northern Sweden. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Luleå in northern Sweden. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)