Swedish town mulls IVF discount to combat population drain

A municipality in northwestern Sweden wants to offer financial aid to employees in need of fertility treatment in an attempt to recruit new residents to the area and boost dwindling population figures.

“Today there are about 5,600 of us– about the same as one block of flats in Stockholm,” Terese Bengard, a local politician in Ragunda municipality told The Local.

Like in the rest of small-town Sweden, population figures have been dwindling in Ragunda, located on the eastern edge of Jämtland County, over the last 10 to 20 years.

New figures from Statistics Sweden (Statistiska Centralbyrån – SCB) show that the number of people moving to densely populated areas of the country increased by 383,000 between 2005 and 2010.

Today 85 percent of Swedes live in densely populated areas, which take up a mere 1.3 percent of the country’s land area.

A similar scheme to that considered in Ragunda was introduced in the small communities of Berg, Strömsund and Härjedalen a few years back, where all inhabitants are offered financial support for fertility treatments.

This might be what will eventually happen in Ragunda as well, where the outlines of the scheme are still being worked out.

“We don’t know yet what we will be allowed to do, or even what we can afford to do. But it is important to explore all avenues and look at all creative ideas in order to increase our population figures,” said Bengard.

The municipality is considering all sorts of measures to attract people to the region.

Another measure up for discussion is looking to attract people to move in from densely populated countries in Europe, such as The Netherlands, a measure taken by many other rural Swedish regions.

The area also has strong ties to Thailand due to the Thai pavilion built there to commemorate a visit by Thai king Chulalongkorn in 1897.

“I often say that if every inhabitant in Ragunda could just get one more person to come and live here we double our population in no time,“ Bengard told The Local.

She thinks that what is important is to show that Ragunda welcomes new people and that there are job opportunities on offer contrary to popular belief about rural areas.

Financial aid for those in need of IVF or adoption is another factor that may attract people to the area.

The municipality board will decide on the scheme after the summer break.

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