The population of Oslo is expected to grow by 34.3 percent or 208,000 residents over the next 20 years. It would take the capital’s total population to around 852,000 residents, with most of the initial growth expected to be driven by immigration.
Oslo municipality’s Improvement and Development Agency (Utviklings- og kompetanseetat) and Statistics Norway (Statistisk Sentralbyrå, SSB) said it meant an average of 866 more residents each month until 2035, reported newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week. It would eventually mean a city almost three times larger than Tromsø, or eight times the population of Molde.
However, Oslo actually has a net migration to wider Norway – about 1,300 more moved out of Oslo than moved in last year. The agencies said the growth spurt would therefore initially be driven by the high rates of net immigration from abroad that Oslo has experienced over recent years.
“The city now bears the marks of the fact there is a financial crisis in Europe,” said Oslo’s Education Commissioner Anniken Hauglie, who is in charge of ensuring the city’s school system has the capacity to absorb the growing population. “Many southern and eastern Europeans want to come to Norway, and they come to Oslo. A very large part of the growth is actually immigration.”
She said the large proportion of immigrants did not make running Oslo’s schools more difficult. “We have the students we have, and we will have the best schools for everyone,” said Hauglie. “We must just work even more intensively and with more concentration on good Norwegian knowledge. These schools actually do this very well, and far better than many schools in the rest of the country.”
Birth rate to pick up
The agencies predicted natural population increases, that is more births than deaths, would eclipse immigration as the main driver during the 20 year period. Despite the high population of women of child-bearing age in Oslo, the city’s birth rate of 1.67 percent was the lowest of any county in Norway. A 34 percent increase in the child population is expected by 2035, with the total number of children increasing by 14,700 in the first 10 years.
Oslo has invested NOK 10 billion (USD 1.6 billion) into building up schools in the next four years alone. “Two new classrooms will be built each week in Oslo for the next five to six years,” Hauglie said. “There has never before been so many schools built as now. We’re going from record to record, it’s nice. In summer there are record deliveries. This will be needed to keep pace with the population growth.”
Those deliveries involve 17 new school projects being completed by August, including four new primary schools, one new secondary school, two totally rehabilitated secondary schools, one totally rehabilitated primary and secondary school, and nine school extensions. They’re designed to cater to 10,000 students and 1,000 teachers.
Hauglie said it was not easy to plan school capacity, because it was difficult to determine exactly how many children of various ages would need places, and which school district they would fall under. She said the new developments were designed to be flexible, so a building could be adapted internally as needs changed.
“We know that everyone who’s born will begin school six years later,” said Hauglie. “But it is difficult to estimate where in the city the families will settle when the children reach school age, and when they get older. Many move beyond the city.”
Audun Lågøyr, the director of the Federation of Norwegian Construction Industries (Byggenæringens Landsforening, BNL) commended Oslo for being proactive on urban planning. “Population growth demands large investments in infrastructure, housing, schools and health centers,” he said. “It is essential to meet population growth in a good way – otherwise there are stoppers, chaos and problems. The learning environment and working environment in schools become bad if you get overcrowded schools in the whole city.”
He raised concerns over the municipality’s approach, and said they were too focused on doing it cheaply. “We are concerned that the maintenace is carried out by people who lack expertise,” Lågøyr said. “There is no problem to build at this scale, but it requires thorough planning and that you choose strategies to develop the supplier industry to deliver quality at the agreed time.”
Lågøyr welcomed the fact that Oslo was willing to use public-private partnership schemes to deliver schools, which he said gave good results.