The Syrian-born in Sweden – who are they?

Aerial panorama of Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: Mostphotos

Today, the Syrian-born population is the largest immigrant group in Sweden. Compared with the demographics for this group in 2010, a larger share of the Syrian-born now have a higher education. They are also younger and less geographically concentrated, according to a new book chapter written by demographers Siddartha Aradhya and Eleonora Mussino.

A greater human capital

The newly arrived Syrian-born population (living in Sweden in 2017) have greater human capital than previous migrants from Syria. 32 percent of the males and 31 percent of the females of the Syrian-born living in Sweden in 2017 have so-called tertiary education according, to the study. Tertiary education includes higher education such as education at universities or vocational schools (vocational schools provide technical skills for specific professions).

This means that today, the share of Syrian-born men with tertiary education or higher is about the same as the share of Swedish-born men with this level of education, since ­31 percent of the Swedish-born males have a tertiary education or higher. However, the share of Swedish-born women with a tertiary or higher education is still higher than among the Syrian-born women – 39 percent compared with 31 percent.

This is also a difference compared with 2010, when about 23% of the Syrian-born men and women, respectively, in Sweden had tertiary education. This share was smaller than that of both the Swedish-born and other foreign-born groups in the country, Aradhya and Mussino write in the chapter.

Less geographically concentrated

Syrian–born individuals living in Sweden in 2017 are less geographically concentrated in the country compared with 2010. This difference, the authors argue, is likely a result of a placement strategy implemented by the Migration Agency.

To this day it is yet unclear if this pattern will remain, or, if they will later on move to more segregated areas. Previous research shows that residential placement policies have not been effective in the long-term, the authors argue.

The Syrian-born are younger

The Syrian-born that arrived after 2010 are also younger than the group that was here before. This can potentially counteract Sweden’s problem with population aging. On the other hand, it poses several challenges such as possible ”persistence of socio-economic inequalities among the descendants of immigrants”, the authors write.

They conclude that the educational system will play an important role in the integration process of the younger Syrian-born. In order to do that, they need to consider the increased diversity of students and their parents. The educational system also needs to confront challenges connected with traumatic experiences these children may have faced, according to Siddartha Aradhya and Eleonora Mussino.

Overall, the authors conclude that the Syrian-born already have and will continue to play a key role in the population change in Sweden.


Aradhya, Siddartha, Eleonora Mussino, “Demographic Profile of Syrians in Sweden”. In: Carlson E., Williams N. (eds) Comparative Demography of the Syrian Diaspora: European and Middle Eastern Destinations. European Studies of Population, vol 20. Springer, Cham. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-24451-4_14


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