Sweden’s birth rate falls to lowest in 17 years

Swedes gave birth to fewer children last year than in any other year since 2005.

Sweden's birth rate falls to lowest in 17 years
Sweden's birth rate has been declining for years. Photo: Fotograferna Holmberg/TT

A total of 104,734 babies were born in Sweden last year, according to new figures by national number-crunchers Statistics Sweden.

That’s a decrease of 9,529 children compared to the year before, or in other words a birth rate that fell by 8.3 percent.

In 2021, the birth rate increased slightly, but the overall trend is falling.

The number of births decreased in 20 out of Sweden’s 21 regions and in 215 out of 290 municipalities compared to 2021. Västmanland in central Sweden, which increased its yearly total by six children, was the only county that had a positive birth rate.

Twenty-two municipalities and two regions (Västernorrland and Norrbotten in northern Sweden) recorded the lowest number of births in over five decades, since records began.


“It’s hard to say exactly which factors are behind the declining birth rate in 2022. But we can tell that the number of children born per woman is decreasing among Swedish-born and foreign-born women alike. The pattern is the same in Norway and Denmark,” said Statistics Sweden analyst Lena Lundkvist in a statement.

Sweden’s total population nevertheless increased last year, by 0.7 percent, mainly because of immigration but also because there were more births than deaths.

The population of Sweden stood at 10,521,556 people at the turn of the year.

The most new immigrants arriving in Sweden last year were originally born in Sweden (for example Swedes who’ve left Sweden but returned in 2022), followed by India, then Poland. The statistics only include people in the population register, so they don’t include new arrivals who haven’t yet registered, for example refugees from Ukraine.

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Why Swedish mums are having children later in life

For Swedish mums, it is now more common to have a child after 45 years of age than as a teenager.

Why Swedish mums are having children later in life

In 2022, 410 children were born to mothers aged 19 or younger, according to number crunchers Statistics Sweden. Meanwhile, 537 children were born to mothers aged 45 or older – the first year in which older mothers outnumbered their teenaged counterparts.

This upward trend began with the introduction of birth control pills in the 1960s, which allowed women greater control over their fertility and family planning.

Access to abortion and Sweden’s shift from an agricultural society to an industrialised one also bolstered the upward demographic trend for maternal age. In 1968, nearly 9,000 babies were born to teen mums, a number that has shrunk significantly over the decades.

This trend is not limited to Sweden. Across the Nordics, parents are waiting longer to have children.

“The upper limit is not as ‘fixed’ anymore,” Gunnar Andersson, a professor of demography at Stockholm University, told Swedish news agency TT. “Previously, there was perhaps an occasional 49-year-old. But with the new treatment methods, children are born to mothers at ages where it was not biologically possible before.”

IVF treatments were introduced in Sweden in the late 1970s, with the first Nordic IVF baby born in 1982 in Gothenburg. Today, both childless couples and single women without children in Sweden can apply for up to three free rounds of IVF at public hospitals.

This publicly-funded treatment for single women and single transgender men who can still reproduce is only available to Swedish citizens or permanent residence holders, according to the Karolinska University Hospital.

And while there are health risks associated with pregnancy at higher ages, overall, it seems that having an older mum can pay off for the children, who tend to born into better socio-economic conditions.

Delaying starting a family allows parents to focus on their education and on establishing their careers and livelihoods, Andersson said.

But sometimes, life happens.

“It may be that you do not find a suitable partner until you are a little older, or have a new relationship,” Andersson said. “You don’t plan to wait to have children until you’re 45.”

But even if the choice to have a baby until later in life is not a deliberate choice, for the child, having an older mum can be a positive thing.

“Children born to slightly older mothers are often better prepared than children born to very young mothers,” Andersson says. “The mothers have better incomes, social resources with a larger network and greater personal maturity.”