Religion in Sweden


During the 2010s, Sweden’s population has increased by about 1 percent per year, mainly as a result of growing net immigration.

Internationally, the Swedish mortality rate in different age classes is very low and the average life expectancy is high.

Fertility (number of children per woman) has increased in recent years. In 2018, it was around 1.78, and Sweden was thus one of the countries in the EU with the highest fertility.

In 2018, more than 132,600 people were registered as immigrants while about 47,000 emigrated. About 2 million (19.1 percent) of Sweden’s population were born abroad.

People in Sweden

Population GROWTH

In 1749, the National Board of Statistics, the predecessor of Statistics Sweden, began annually to make nationwide compilations of population size and change in all parishes in the country. This means that we have a reliable and detailed picture of population growth for about 265 years.

According to thesciencetutor, the population of present-day Sweden in the mid-18th century was close to 1.8 million. Birth rates and, above all, death rates varied considerably from year to year and the population increase was slow. From the 1820s to the mid-1900s, the death toll gradually decreased as living conditions improved. Since then they have increased somewhat, as the elderly constitute a growing proportion of the population, but the death tolls fluctuate somewhat between different years.

Birth rates remained high until about 1870, which meant that the population increased rapidly in 1820-70. Children and adolescents made up a much larger proportion of the population.

A gradual decline in birth rates came after 1870, and it was particularly noticeable during the 1920s and 1930s. The pace of population growth slowed and the annual number of children was lower than before. As in many other countries, a sharp increase came after the Second World War. Over the past forty years, birth rates have varied slightly more than death rates, but for most years have been only a few per cent higher than these. The natural increase in population has therefore been insignificant but has risen with increasing fertility.

Increased average life expectancy

Around 1850 the average life expectancy was 40 years, in 1930 it had increased to 65 years and at the end of the 2010s it is 82 years. There are clear differences between different parts of the country. Different living habits, working conditions, injury risks and even varying access to health care explain most of the differences. As in most other countries, the average life expectancy is higher for women than for men.

More boys are born than girls, but women have higher chances of survival and in the age classes over 60 years there are more women than men. In total, Sweden’s population of 49.73 percent consists of men (2018).

Sweden is among the eight countries in the world with the lowest infant mortality rate, about 2 per thousand. It also varies between different parts of the country. The lowest is in Stockholm County.

From country of emigration to country of immigration

From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, Sweden was an expatriate country. About 1.5 million people emigrated from 1850 to 1930, while immigration was insignificant. The greatest emigration was during the 1880s when there was a crisis in Swedish agriculture and the boom in the USA.

Since the 1950s, with only a few years of exception, Sweden has been an immigration country and net immigration has generally increased, especially during the 2010s.

Also, emigration from Sweden has gradually increased, mainly from the 1990s as a result of Sweden’s entry into the EU and globalization. The most common emigration countries are our nearest neighboring countries as well as the UK, USA and Germany.

Immigration has varied greatly between years, in terms of scope, causes and countries of origin.

War and unrest in other parts of the world, the labor market situation in Sweden and the Swedish state’s regulation of the ability of relatives and asylum seekers to obtain residence permits affect the extent of immigration and the background of immigrants.

Citizens of EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein (countries that have signed the EEA with the EU) and in Switzerland automatically have the right of residence in Sweden to work or study. It also has people who can sustain themselves permanently. Those who intend to stay more than a year should be registered in Sweden. Immigrants from all other countries must apply for a residence permit.

Those who immigrate for labor market reasons make up a seventh of those who are granted a residence permit, and the most common professions are computer specialists and work in agriculture and forestry. To work in Sweden, they must have an offer of employment before arrival here.

In recent years, the number of applications for residence permits for refugee reasons has increased significantly as a result of the wars in Afghanistan, the Middle East and East Africa. In 2015, approximately 162,900 applications for asylum were submitted under the UN Refugee Convention, other UN rules and the National Aliens Act. Within the EU, Sweden had the most asylum applications in relation to the country’s population (16.5 per 1,000 residents).

In 2019, the number had dropped to 21,958 applications. The majority came from people from Syria (2 6490), Iraq (1,054), Uzbekistan (1,052) and Georgia (975).

In 2019, 19 percent of all granted residence permits were based on asylum reasons; in 2016, the same figure was 47 percent. Those who receive a residence permit are immediately registered, assigned social security numbers and access to social services.

Every year, about one-sixth of the immigrants are Swedish immigrants who have been abroad for work, studies, for health reasons or the like. Together with immigrants from the other Nordic countries, they accounted for just over 15 percent of all immigrants to Sweden in 2019.

Large foreign immigrant groups also come from crisis areas. During the 2010s, the countries of origin were mainly Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

The geographical distribution of the population

Sweden’s population is very unevenly distributed and the country has more sparsely populated areas than any other EU country. The differences in population density between sparsely populated areas and the most densely populated areas are gradually increasing, reflecting the urbanization that is taking place in Sweden.

With a Swedish definition, all localities with 200 residents and more are referred to as urban areas. The urban area’s share of the country’s population has gradually grown to 87 percent.

During the last decades, most of the smaller urban areas in the remote parts of the counties and especially in inner Norrland and Svealand have become depopulation sites. Jobs have become less and less public transport networks and service offerings. An increasing share of the population is gathered in the three metropolitan regions of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. In the depopulation areas, the proportion of older people is greater than elsewhere.

Ethnic minorities

The so-called ethnic revival after World War II is a pan-European phenomenon that has reinforced the ethnic identities of minorities and in many cases led to linguistic revitalizations. The Sami minority endeavors can be seen as part of this. The Sami, by UN definition, constitute Sweden’s only minority of origin or indigenous population. Through the peace of 1809 when Finland resigned to Russia, the tower falls became a border minority. Romans can be detected in Sweden since the 16th century. Today’s Roma have a history of about 100 years in Sweden. The group also includes travelers, who, on the other hand, have long domicile in the country. There have been Jewish congregations in the country since the end of the 18th century, but the pressure of assimilation has been strong against this group.

From having long had a weak interest in the survival of the domestic minorities, the state has gradually changed its policy. During the 1990s, a new Swedish minority policy was developed. The ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (the Minority Languages Convention) and the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities 2000 recognized Jews/Yiddish, Roma / Romani, Sami/Sami, Swedes of Finland/Finnish and Tornecards/Meänkieli as national minorities and minority languages.. In 2005, the Riksdag decided on a new language law, which came into force in 2009. With it, Sweden also got a unified language policy that would further improve the situation of minorities.

Nevertheless, the Council of Europe has repeatedly criticized the fact that the teaching of national minority languages does not live up to the objectives set. Therefore, on January 1, 2010, the Act on National Minorities and Minority Languages came into force, which clarifies the rights in the Language Act of 2009. The language council at the authority The Institute for Languages and Memories is to contribute language-preserving measures to minority languages ​​as well. Municipalities where Finnish, Meänkieli and Sami are spoken by many constitute special administrative areas. Individuals have the right to use their mother tongue in contact with authorities and courts. Elderly care in minority languages is expected to be provided within the respective administrative areas. In these municipalities, children will also be offered opportunities for preschools where all or part of the activities are conducted in the minority language. In this way, Swedish minority policy aims to strengthen the social influence of national minorities and to promote their language so that they are kept alive. In spite of cultural revitalization among the minorities, in practice certain minority languages (eg several Sami dialects) are threatened to disappear altogether. The Sami are also covered by special indigenous rights; For Sami, there is thus a special Sami policy.

The extensive mainly post-war immigration to Sweden has led to members of a large number of linguistic, religious and cultural groups now living within the country’s borders. They originate in virtually all countries of the world. However, ethnic minorities in a specific sociological sense hardly exist among immigrants, although some groups exhibit a certain ethnic mobilization and development of a minority culture. weak economic conditions and poorer social conditions show exclusion and may even form a new subclass.

See also immigrants and immigration policy.


Most Swedish citizens have Swedish as their mother tongue. In Norrbotten there is a native Finnish-speaking minority, now probably about 50,000. The Sami-speaking minority in Northern Sweden has been estimated at about 9,000 people.

As a domestic minority language, according to law (2002), Sami, Finnish, Meänkieli (a Finnish dialect spoken in Tornedalen), Romani and Yiddish are recognized. Swedish sign language has also been given a special position.

Through labor and refugee immigration during the post-World War II period, Sweden has become a multilingual country. Of the immigrants, Finnish speakers are the largest group; According to an estimate (2003), the number of Finnish-born immigrants and their children is close to 300,000. Other Nordic languages are spoken by close to 100,000 people from the other Nordic countries. Many immigrants have come from the Balkan Peninsula, including over 70,000 who speak some of the languages of the former Yugoslavia. A large group was also the Spanish speakers from Latin America, upwards of 50,000. More than 100,000 people come from countries with Arabic or Persian as their main language. Also German, English, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, Turkish and Kurdish are spoken as the first language by a large number of people living in Sweden. In the elementary school in 2006/2007 there were about 150,000 children with a different mother tongue than Swedish.


For pre-Christian religion, see ancient Nordic religion and Sami (Religion).

Apart from the short-term mission in Birka in the 800s, Sweden was reached by Christianity at the end of the 900s through English and German missions (the latter from Bremen), partly in Skåne, which then belonged to the Danish kingdom and partly in Västergötland, which came to be part of the kingdom. Christianity and national formation took place at the same time and were interrelated. After being part of a Nordic church province with Lund as archbishop’s seat from 1103, Sweden became its own church province (under the Pope in Rome) in 1164 with Uppsala as the archbishop’s seat. For the medieval Swedish bishop’s seats, see pins. A parish division was crystallized from about 1200. A leading position received the Cistercian order. Through the Mendicant orders (beggar orders), contacts were made with the continental universities, and Sweden was opened to new cultural impulses. The Vadstena monastery, founded on Holy Birgitta’s initiative, was Sweden’s religious center during the late Middle Ages. Compare monastery (Monastery in Sweden). For conditions in Finland, see Finland (Religion).

During the 16th century, the Lutheran Reformation was carried out, largely under the influence of Gustav Vasa’s political and economic ambitions. A leading role was played by the brothers Olaus and Laurentius Petri. The Swede replaced Latin as a language of worship, but the liturgy of the medieval church was retained to a greater extent than in other Lutheran churches. The New Testament was published in Swedish in 1526, the whole Bible (Gustav Vasa’s Bible) 1541. Laurentius Petri’s church ordination came in 1571. Under Gustav Vasa’s church, the ecclesiastical situation was long unclear, but the Reformation was confirmed by Uppsala meeting in 1593; see further Swedish Church (History). Sweden was now a Lutheran kingdom and no other churches were allowed. A Swedish Protestant identity was established through Gustav IIAdolf’s intervention in the Thirty Years War. A strict Lutheran Orthodoxy occurred, and during the Royal autocracy time were carried out a uniform ring of worship and church order: Church Law 1686, Catechism 1689 (Svebilius catechism), church manual 1693, psalmbook 1695, revised Bible translation 1703 (Karl XII ‘s bible; Gustav II Adolf bible 1618 had not been changed more than with, for example, verse division). The requirement for catechism skills among the people contributed to literacy in Sweden (see house questioning). Gradually, foreign influences prevailed, e.g. pietism (which was fought with the convention poster), gentlemen’s hutism, enlightenment and liberalism. For commercial reasons, reformed craftsmen, industrialists and merchants were granted the right to settle and organize religious services in the 1720s. By official decrees of 1781 and 1782, Catholics and Jews gained the same right. The dissent laws of 1860 and 1873 gave some statutory freedom of religion, but a true religious freedom law did not come until 1951. At the beginning of the 19th century, the church books from the great power era were replaced with books characterized by enlightenment ideas: Lindblom’s Catechism 1810, Church Handbook 1811 and, to a lesser extent, Wallin’s Psalm 18. Of the revival movements that occurred later in the 19th century, some stayed within the church, others were organized as a free church. With the beginning urbanization, secularisation was also initiated. Conflicts between the church and the labor movement occurred but did not lead to any disruption.

In the Primary School’s Christianity teaching, Luther’s Little Catechism was replaced in 1919 by the Sermon on the Mount preaching as a summary of the Christian view. In 1917 a new church Bible (Gustaf V ‘s Bible) came. The New Testament appeared in a new translation in 1981 (NT 81), and the entire Bible in 1999. At the turn of the year 2000, the Church of Sweden entered into a changed relationship with the state (see Church of Sweden). Other communities were given legal status as a religious community and also the right to collect church fees through the tax bill. Even during the 1990s, the issue of women’s clergy was the subject of debate.

The religious image in Sweden has undergone strong changes through immigration after the Second World War. The Roman Catholic Church has increased its membership to about 165,000 (see also Roman Catholic Church) and since 1998 has a Swedish bishop, Anders Arborelius. Orthodox and Oriental churches have been established (see text boxand under each church), and the number of non-Christian believers has increased significantly (see below). The ecumenical movement has played a major role throughout the 20th century. The Swedish Church’s relationship with the Anglican church community was established through the so-called Porvoo Declaration in 1992. The cooperation between the free churches has been expanded, partly through local merging and partly through larger mergers. The newly built Christian co-operation (formed in 1997) is the result of a merger between the Örebromission, the Fribaptist Association and the Helgelseförbundet. Other similar mergers are planned. A slight decline in the number of members can still be seen in the free churches. Those who best retain their positions (1999) are the Pentecostal Movement and the Nybygget – Christian collaboration. More marginal movements such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) have had some success, as has the more indeterminate religious trend called the new age. The most dominant feature at the turn of the century is fast-moving secularization and a religious individualism that can take on the most diverse expressions.

Immigrant community

Christian faith communities in Sweden, whose members mainly consist of immigrants

Orthodox churches

Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Estonian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Finnish Orthodox Church in Sweden
Greek Orthodox Church in Sweden
Macedonian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Romanian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Russian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Serbian Orthodox Church in Sweden

Oriental churches

Armenian Apostolic Church in Sweden
Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Coptic Orthodox Church in Sweden
Syrian Orthodox Church in Sweden
Eastern Assyrian Church in Sweden.

Reformed churches

Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Sweden
Norwegian Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Sweden
Estonian Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Sweden
Latvian Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Sweden
German Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Sweden
Hungarian Protestant Churches in Sweden
French Reformed Church in Swedish
Anglican Church in Sweden

Islam is the second largest religion in Sweden. This is mainly the result of different types of immigration; first labor immigration from Turkey and former Yugoslavia during the 1960s, then relative and refugee immigration from the 1970s onwards. Today, there are Muslims from all over the world in Sweden, with large minorities from eg. Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo in Serbia, Somalia and Lebanon. A few of the Muslims are converts.

The most active congregations are located in the big cities, partly independent and partly linked to larger national organizations. Three of these are eligible for state grants: the United Islamic Communities in Sweden (formed in 1974), the Swedish Muslim Federation (formed in 1982) and the Islamic Cultural Center Union (formed in 1984). These collaborate in the Islamic Cooperation Council (formed in 1988), which reaches about 85,000 believers (1998). There are also national organizations that are not eligible for state grants: the Swedish Muslim Youth Association (formed in 1990, with 30 local associations in 1999), the Islamic Shia community in Sweden (formed in 1992/93, with about 10 parishes in 1999), Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Islamic National Association in Sweden (founded in 1995, with 19 parishes in 1999) and the Islamic National Assembly in Sweden (formed in 1995, with 16 parishes in 1999).

The number of Muslims in Sweden is difficult to estimate, and the figures circulating can all be criticized. The reason is that there is no religious registration in Sweden, since religious affiliation is perceived as a private matter. There are two ways to count that are not pure guesses. One is to see how many members the Islamic Cooperation Council reports (85,000, 1998). Another is to try to estimate the proportion of Muslims of the people who immigrated to Sweden (about 250,000, 1999). The first method does not account for those who are passively religious or who for other reasons do not want to be part of a congregation. The second method also includes those who have turned away from Islam or who do not see themselves as Muslims. Several Muslim representatives indicate higher numbers, in 1999 300,000-350,000 was a regular figure. In summary, it can thus be said that,

Both Hinduism and Buddhism are now well established in Sweden. The more than 5,000 (1995) who have Hinduism as their religion usually have Indian background and come from India mainly from Uganda. They are merged into about ten associations that formed the Swedish Hindu Federation; this also includes the new spiritual Krishna movement. A temple building is located in Mariestad.

Immigrants with a Buddhist background approach 15,000; many are affiliated with any of the Buddhist associations of various orientations that exist. The first of these was formed by Swedes during the 1950s, and it is estimated that there are now about 3,000 Swedish Buddhists. Buddhist immigrants come mainly from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Tibet. The national organization is missing, but the stupa that the Dalai Lama inaugurated in 1988 in Fellingsbro has to some extent become a cultural center.

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Sikhism is also represented by a congregation. The small number of Baha’is have long been gathered in some thirty congregations around Sweden. The number of Jews is just under 20,000; for Judaism, see Jews (In Sweden).

Sweden Religion