No, demographic change doesn’t prove there’s a great replacement in Sweden

By: Siri Christiansen
June 12 2024

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No, demographic change doesn’t prove there’s a great replacement in Sweden

Source: TikTok/Screenshots (Edited by Logically Facts)

Fact-Check

The Verdict False

The great replacement is inherently a far-right conspiracy theory and therefore cannot be proven or disproven through statistics.

Claim ID 2224c07a

Context

In an opinion piece published in the Swedish newspaper Expressen on June 3, the party leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, claimed "the Swedish people" are being replaced due to mass immigration from "culturally distant countries."

The piece quickly came under fire from experts who study the far-right, who highlighted that "the great replacement" is a conspiracy theory with a track record of influencing terrorists such as Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik. Proponents of this conspiracy theory believe that white, Western countries are under siege by immigrants from African and Arab countries, who will have children at higher rates until the native population becomes a minority in their own countries and the native culture is replaced by Islam. This is often claimed to be orchestrated or aided by a shadowy "elite." 

Following this backlash, several videos have appeared on TikTok in Åkesson's defense – claiming that the great replacement isn't a conspiracy theory at all, but a statistically verified fact.

"A lot of people, particularly on the left, claim that the great replacement is a myth. But the numbers say something completely different," a Sweden Democrat influencer says in a TikTok video with over 55,000 views (archived here). She points to statistics and claims that the percentage of Swedes with a "foreign background" has increased from 4.3 percent in 1950 to 34.6 percent in 2022.

Another TikTok video (archived here) rhetorically asks, "Is 'white replacement' a 'conspiracy theory'?" It presents a slideshow of demographic statistics from different Western countries and claims that the "foreign population" in Sweden has increased by 47 percent between 2012 and 2022, whereas the "Swedish population" has only increased by 0.6 percent.

The numbers

The statistics in the first video do not match those from Statistiska Centralbyrån (SCB), Sweden's state authority for statistics

In 2022, 26.9 percent of the Swedish population were of "foreign background" – meaning they were either born outside of Sweden or born in the country by two first-generation immigrants. In SSCB's summary of Sweden's demographics between 1960 and 2023, this data point only goes back to 1994, when 12.9 percent of the population was of "foreign background." The numbers in the second video are correct; the number of people with a “foreign background” in Sweden increased from 1.9 million in 2012 to 2.8 million in 2022, which is an increase of 905,120 (47 percent). This change, it should be noted, is far less dramatic when compared to the wider population, as the share of the population with a "foreign background" is up just 6.8 percentage points (from 20.1 percent in 2012 to 26.9 percent in 2022). 

Regardless, these numbers cannot be used as proof of a white replacement. 

For one, Sweden does not collect statistics on ethnicity

Secondly, it is incorrect to assume that all of the 2.1 million people born outside of Sweden (as of 2022) are non-white and come from what some consider "culturally distant countries" when this number includes 211,000 people born in other Nordic countries, 98,400 born in Poland, 55,500 in Germany, and 57,500 in the U.K. and the U.S.

Third, looking at religion and language – since the great replacement theory typically focuses on Arabic-speaking immigrants and the threat of "Islamification"– a 2023 survey by SCB and the research company Novus found that only seven percent of adults living in Sweden speak Arabic, and just one percent are Muslim. The study is based on 39,184 interviews and is estimated to be representative of 95 percent of adults living in Sweden. Other studies estimate that the percentage of Muslims is around eight percent of the population.

(It's not really about the numbers)

Irrespective of demographic statistics, the idea that "Swedes" are being replaced by "non-Swedes" is underpinned by ideas about racial purity. The built-in assumption is that those moving to Sweden from other (non-Western, non-white) countries will never be ethnically Swedish, nor will their children or grandchildren. It is also intertwined with the ethnopluralist Identitarian movement that aims to preserve separate ethnocultural groups – based on the historically incorrect assumption that cultures such as Sweden's were developed in racially and culturally homogenous silos. Furthermore, the theory is also inherently conspiratorial because it views immigration as an orchestrated attack by a shadowy “elite” and is often coupled with the theory of a supposed "deep state." This has led some to caution against debunking the great replacement with statistics, as it risks legitimizing the theory by treating it as something that can be verified. 

The verdict

Contrary to the claims, demographic data does not support the idea that ethnic Swedes are being replaced by people from "foreign backgrounds." Furthermore, given that the great replacement is a far-right conspiracy theory based on historically incorrect assumptions about cultural homogeneity, it cannot be verified by looking at demographic data - particularly not from Sweden, since there are no statistics on ethnicity. Therefore, we have rated this claim as false.

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