Record numbers of asylum seekers and other immigrants arrived in Norway last year, but tens of thousands left the country as well. Never before have so many people emigrated from Norway, according to new figures from state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway).
Norway is known for mass emigration in the 1800s and early 1900s, with most of those leaving heading for the US. Only Ireland saw a greater exodus of people looking for a better life “over there,” after an estimated 800,000 Norwegians left their homeland and started new lives, especially in the Amerian Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
Even in the top emigration year of 1882, though, fewer than 30,000 Norwegians left Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that last year, around 36,500 emigrated from Norway, according to new figures from SSB. Those leaving in the 1800s, when Norway was still a poor nation with a total population of around 2.2 million, made up a much larger portion of the population than those emigrating today, when Norway’s population totals around 5.2 million. In terms of sheer numbers, though, SSB notes that emigration has never been higher, with the last record reached in 2013 when 35,716 people left Norway.
“The numbers amount to the entire population of a city like Porsgrunn, which has around 36,000 residents,” Marianne Tønnessen of SSB told Aftenposten, in an effort to put the number of emigrants from Norway into perspective.
Around 31,000 asylum seekers arrived in Norway last year, along with thousands of people from other countries, so Norway still has net immigration that has contributed to population growth since the early 1970s. As the economy slows down because of the dive in oil prices, however, more people are leaving Norway, with some foreigners even being told to leave.
Fully two-thirds of today’s emigrants were immigrants themselves to Norway, according to SSB. Many are young and spent a relatively short period in Norway, with the largest single group of emigrants returning home to Sweden. They’re followed by emigrants moving back to Poland, Lithuania, Germany, the Philippines and Iceland.
“The reasons for emigration from Norway are mostly economic, rather than religious or political,” Lars Østby, a researcher at SSB, told Aftenposten. Tønnessen said that immigrants with the shortest stays in Norway figure have a greater probability of emigrating than those who have been here longer.
“Emigrants today have a lot of reasons as to why they leave and where they go,” Tønnessen said. “We see that if unemployment rises or falls in Norway, it has an impact on whether immigrants from the new EU countries in eastern Europe head back home. For immigrants from western industrial countries (in Europe, North American, Australia and New Zealand), unemployment in their own countries has a greater bearing on whether they stay in Norway or move back.”
Only 22 percent of those emigrating from Norway in 2014 were Norwegian citizens. That level has remained stable for several years, according to SSB. “Those leaving in the 1800s and beginning of the 1900s wanted a better life in America,” Tønnessen said. Today, despite the recent economic decline in Norway, most Norwegians still have a good life in their own country.