Contrasting Arctic and Mainstream Swedish Descriptions of Northern Sweden: The View from Established Domestic Research
Keywords:Arctic, Sweden, Arctic Human Development Report, demography, economic development
In 2011, Sweden released its first-ever Arctic strategy, in preparation for taking over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, an eight-state cooperation organization. The recent political development that will include Sweden more extensively in Arctic regional cooperation makes it relevant to review and comment on the image of the areas involved from a Swedish viewpoint and to improve the often very brief descriptions of northernmost Sweden in Arctic literature. In this paper, we contrast descriptions of the Arctic in the Arctic Human Development Report (AHDR) with descriptions of northern Sweden in established domestic demographic and regional development research. The study shows that many of the assumptions in the first AHDR to the effect that the eight “Arctic” regions are rather directly comparable in fact reveal substantial differences between areas, with northern Sweden standing in sharp contrast to many of the descriptions. Instead of having a population that is very small, young, and rapidly growing because of a high birth rate, northern Sweden is characterized by relatively dense habitation with a stable and aging population of long-term residents. Moreover, it has a very small and relatively integrated indigenous population with largely the same health situation as in Sweden overall. While depopulation and urbanization are evident in its less populated areas, migration from the region is partly directed at the larger regional centres in the area, following a pattern seen in the Western world at large.