Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of Sweden, and in recent centuries the country has been transformed from a nation of net emigration, ending after World War I, to a nation of net immigration, from World War II onwards. The economic, social, and political aspects of immigration have caused controversy regarding ethnicity, economic benefits, jobs for non-immigrants, settlement patterns, impact on upward social mobility, crime, and voting behaviour.
There are no exact numbers on the ethnic background of migrants and their descendants in Sweden because the Swedish government does not base any statistics on ethnicity. This is, however, not to be confused with the migrants’ national backgrounds, which are recorded.
In 2016, there were 2 320 302 inhabitants of a foreign background (foreign-born and children of international migrants), comprising around 23% of the Swedish population. The number of people with at least one foreign parent was 3,060,115, which counts for 30% of the population. Of these inhabitants, 1,784,497persons living in Sweden were born abroad. In addition, 535,805 persons were born in Sweden to two parents born abroad and other 739,813 persons had one parent born abroad (with the other parent born in Sweden).
According to Eurostat, in 2010, there were 1.33 million foreign-born residents in Sweden, corresponding to 14.3% of the total population. Of these, 859 000 (9.2%) were born outside the EU and 477 000 (5.1%) were born in another EU Member State.
In 2009, immigration reached its highest level since records began, with 102,280 people emigrating to Sweden. Immigrants in Sweden are mostly concentrated in the urban areas of Svealand and Götaland. Since the early 1970s, immigration to Sweden has been mostly due to refugee migration and family reunification from countries in the Middle East and Latin America. In 2013, Sweden granted 29,000 people asylum, an increase of 67% compared to 2012.
The ten largest groups of foreign-born persons in the Swedish civil registry in 2016 were from:
- Finland (153,620)
- Syria (149,418)
- Iraq (135,129)
- Poland (88,704)
- Iran (70,637)
- Former Yugoslavia (66,539)
- Somalia (63,853)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (58,181)
- Germany (50,189)