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1945-2020 : Augmentation de l’immigration et de la diversité religieuse

As described in the historical overview above, Sweden has for a long time been characterised by a high degree of religious and ethnic homogeneity and a low degree of immigration. However, after the Second World War, immigration continuously increased in a number of “waves”. This meant that Sweden continuously developed towards an increased religious diversity in parallel with the process of separation between the church and the state (described in the previous section).

During the Second World War and the first decade after it ended in 1945, refugees arrived from the other Nordic countries, the Baltic countries, and other East European countries in crisis after the war. Since Sweden had been kept out of the war, the start-up process of industry was fast and a long very expansive economic period took place until the 1970s with a high demand of labour. In order to fulfil the need of workers, a large number of people were recruited mostly from Finland, but also from Southern Europe, e.g. Italy and Greece.

In the decades after the war Sweden step by step opened up to refugees from different international conflict areas and repressive regimes, and eventually developed a very liberal humanitarian refugee policy. Deserters from the US Army during the Vietnam war (1955-1975), refugees from Hungary during the political crisis in 1956, refugees from Greece during the military junta period (1967-1974), refugees from Chile during the military junta period (1973-1990), Assyrian, Syrian and Kurdish refugees (1975-1982), Vietnamese “boat refugees” (1978-79), refugees from different African conflict areas (1980-1995) and from the conflict in the Balkan countries (former Yugoslavia, 1992-1995) arrived in successive waves. From 1990, an increasing numbers of refugees arrived mainly from Iran, Iraq and, Somalia, joined after 2010 by those coming from Afghanistan and Syria, with a peak in 2015 as a consequence of long-term war and terror in these countries.

From a period of slowly increasing immigration between 1945 and 2000, the first two decades of the 21st century has seen a dramatic change of Swedish demography.
Figures from December 31st 2019 show that 25,5% of the Swedish population has a foreign background, either by being born abroad or by being born in Sweden from parents born abroad. The table below shows the increase of people with a foreign background from 1970 to 2019, in percent of the total population (National Statistics).

Year 1970 1990 2000 2005 2010 2015 2019
Proportion of the population with a foreign background 8% 12% 14,5% 16,2% 19,1% 22,2% 25,5%

Immigration of people also means immigration of religion. As a consequence, Swedish religious demography was also changed by the numerous arriving Christian Catholics and Orthodox in the first part of the period, followed by Buddhists and African Pentecostal Christians, and during the last three decades a large number of Sunni and Shia Muslims. Thereby, Sweden has, between the Second World War and today, changed from a homogeneous country with a totally dominant religion, to an increasingly culturally and religiously diverse one.

D 26 octobre 2020    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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