‘Working from home’: Sweden sees post-pandemic baby boom

It was like clockwork. Nine months after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, cities across Sweden experienced a mini baby boom, with births increasing for the first time in years.

'Working from home': Sweden sees post-pandemic baby boom
A newborn baby. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

For Karl McShane, a population statistician with the municipality of Malmö, the data came as a surprise when it started to arrive back in April and May 2020. 

“I was expecting fertility to go down, because there was also an economic crisis, and that usually brings it down,” remembers McShane, whose father is Irish.

“But then we got the pregnancy data, and I was speaking to colleagues in Gothenburg and Stockholm, and they saw the same thing: there were more ultrasounds, there were more people visiting maternity services. There was a peak. There hadn’t been that many people at Malmö’s maternity health centres for years.” 

Nine months later, in the first three months of 2021, there was a mini baby boom, with 1,282 babies born in Malmö, the highest first quarter number in at least 13 years. 

“I think working from home was one cause of it,” McShane argues. “At any given point in time, there’s a number of couples that wants to have a child, and it takes a while. But suddenly, a whole group got an increased opportunity.” 

The baby boom was even more marked in Gothenburg, he says, while so many people left Stockholm to move to the countryside in 2020 and 2021, that the statistics are hard to follow.  

According to a study by Statistics Sweden, the fertility rate of women born in Sweden rose in 2021 for the first time following ten years of continuous decline, rising from 1.6 children per woman in 2020 to 1.62 in 2021. 

A chart from Statistics Sweden showing how birthrates rose in 2021 in all but the lowest income group. Source: Statistics Sweden.

“Growth in childbirth can to a certain extent be linked to the groups which experienced a better balance between work and family life during the pandemic,” the agency wrote in its report. “This could apply, for example, to women who already had one or two children, or women with a higher income.” 

McShane points out that there was no baby boom among women born outside Sweden, perhaps because they and their partners were more likely to have jobs where working from home was impossible. 

The boom in Malmö was short-lived, however, with the birthrates slumping again in the second half of 2021, hitting their lowest level since 2008.

McShane dismissed the suggestion that this was because couples working from home had begun to tire of one an another, explaining that it was more because most of the women who had wanted to have a child had already managed to get pregnant.

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Country by country: Where do Sweden’s newest foreign residents come from?

More people moved to Sweden last year than the year before. But where do they all come from?

Country by country: Where do Sweden's newest foreign residents come from?

Immigration to Sweden increased year-on-year in 2021 for the first time since 2016, when around 163,000 new residents were added to the country’s population register, according to fresh data by national number crunchers Statistics Sweden.

In total, 90,631 people moved to Sweden last year, up 9.8 percent on 2020.

The largest group of immigrants, 11 percent, were Swedes returning to their country of birth.

This was followed by people born in India. A total of 6,017 people born in India moved to Sweden last year, an increase of 48.2 percent on the previous year.

The next largest groups were from Syria (3,538 people born in Syria became registered as residents last year), closely followed by Germany (3,501) and Pakistan (3,240).

Fewer people emigrated from Sweden last year, with 48,284 people moving out – a decrease of 1.3 percent compared to 2020, according to Statistics Sweden’s data.

Again, most of these were native Swedes – 16,975 in total – of whom 10.4 percent moved to the UK, 10 percent moved to Norway and 8.3 percent moved to Denmark.

More than half of all emigrants last year (55.9 percent), at least the ones who were not born in Sweden, returned to their country of birth. This was particularly common among people born in Finland, with 1,609 Finnish-born people returning to Finland from Sweden.

The number of foreign-born residents in Sweden grew to 2,090,503 people last year, an increase of 2.1 percent. Syria, Iraq and Finland make up the top three countries of birth. Sweden’s total population stood at 10,452,326 at the turn of the year.

If you are new to Sweden, welcome! We hope you’ll like it here. The Local has plenty of guides, analysis and features aimed at newcomers and long-term residents, and if there’s a topic you’ve got questions about or think we should cover, you’re always welcome to get in touch. And for anyone wondering how they can stay in Sweden forever, here’s our guide.