Oslo’s population growth flattens out

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Norway’s capital city of Oslo has been among the fastest-growing in Europe for several years, but new figures show that’s not necessarily so any longer. More people are now moving out of Oslo than moving in, and only the city’s birth rate has prevented a population decline.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Oslo’s population has been rising as fast as its new skyline here at Bjørvika, but now the growth seems to be flattening out. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

There’s no question that Oslo has been booming in the past two decades, not least because of all the people moving to Norway during the years of the oil industry boom and the finance/euro crisis in the rest of Europe. From a population of around 500,000 in the 1990s, new figures from state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) show that 669,060 people lived in Oslo as of July 1 this year. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Monday that Oslo’s population has risen by 31 percent just since the year 2000.

The number of people moving out of Oslo during the first half of this year, however, was 520 higher than those moving in. The births of 2,537 babies registered with an address in Oslo during the second quarter of this year left the capital with just 241 more residents than it had in the previous quarter. The fact that more babies were born during the first half (4,816) than those who died (1,995) left the city with a net increase of 2,301 so far this year, but the lowest growth rate during the second quarter since the early 2000s.

Weak growth last year, too
It follows a weak growth rate of just 1.27 percent last year, prompting Anders Falnes-Dalheim of SSB to tell Aftenposten that he thinks it’s correct to say that population growth in Oslo is now flattening out or at least declining. He noted that the numbers “go a bit up and down when we look at specific quarters,” but he added that net immigration to Oslo (when more people move in than move out) “is on the way down. This is a trend.”

The numbers are being closely watched by city officials who have been investing billions in new schools, public transport and day care centers in Oslo to accommodate the growth. Real estate developers have also been busy getting permits and building more housing. Oslo’s city government leader Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party stressed, though, that he thinks it’s too early to draw any conclusions about whether the decline in net immigration will continue.

Oslo’s total metropolitan area, meanwhile, has kept growing as many would-be residents wind up living in suburban or farther outlying areas where housing prices are lower. Aftenposten reported that construction of new residential communities has led to major population increases in the Romerike area of Akershus County northeast of Oslo, for example, with communities like Ullensaker up 74 percent, Nannestad up 41 percent and Sørum up 45 percent since 2000. Growth rates in outlying areas south of Oslo are also high, with Ås up 42 percent and Vestby up 45 percent.

Folks ‘can move back’
Johansen noted that the numbers of people moving from the City and County of Oslo to the bordering county of Akershus has risen. “There’s reason to believe that the high housing prices in Oslo have contributed to that,” Johansen told Aftenposten. “If the housing market cools down (which it’s already doing), that can influence more moves back to the city.”

SSB still predicts more growth for Oslo, offering specific estimated population numbers like 788,928 for 2030 and 853,931 for 2040. It’s thus likely Oslo will still need more housing along with day care centers, schools and other expanded public services. The current slowdown in growth can be linked to the oil price collapse that all but eliminated the hiring frenzy in the years prior to 2014, along with economic improvement in Europe that has stemmed the influx of EU/EEA residents looking for work in Norway.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund