Ahead of a planned 2021 census, Swedish authorities have admitted they don’t know exactly how many people live in the country, citing people with multiple identities, wrong addresses and illegal migration as possible explanations.
According to Statistics Sweden (SCB), the governmental body in charge of population, labor market, and GDP data, there are currently around 10.35 million people registered as living in the country.
Of this number, as many as 119,000 people are registered at the wrong address, an issue which is further exacerbated by discrepancies in the quality of data from certain areas, including neighborhoods with migrant populations and coastal tax havens.
“If we were to conduct door-to-door interviews, we would possibly be able to capture more people. People do not always open the door,” Marie Lidéus of Statistics Sweden said.
Illegal subletting of accommodation is rife in, but not exclusive to, immigrant-dense areas of the country, particularly in urban population centres like Malmo, Stockholm and Gothenburg.
However, people registering in low-tax areas like Gothernburg and Stockholm, who then spending most of the year in their holiday homes on the west coast, also muddies the data, with consequences for local authorities trying to manage the coronavirus response based on incorrect local population figures and suspiciously low local tax coffers.
Registering at the wrong address was made punishable by a fine or prison term in 2018 but the issue persists to this day.
The EU requires member states to conduct a census at least once per decade to standardize data across the bloc and, though they are difficult and expensive, they are also highly necessary, proponents argue. Sweden’s last census was in 2011 with the next one due to take place in 2021.
Since 2011, the country has recorded roughly 90,000 deaths per annum while seeing a significant surge in immigration, peaking in 2016, during which time 163,000 people immigrated there.
More immigrants arrived (116,000) than children were born (115,000) in Sweden in 2019 and the Swedish Migration Agency estimates that up to 250,000 immigrants could be granted citizenship in the next three years.