Famous for its efforts to put women on an equal footing with men, Sweden is experiencing a gender balance shift that has caught the country by surprise: For the first time since record-keeping began in 1749, it now has more men than women.
News24 Swedes don’t quite know what to make of this sudden male surplus, which is highly unusual in the West, where women historically have been in the majority in almost every country. But it may be a sign of things to come in Europe as changes in life expectancy and migration transform demographics.
The tipping point in Sweden happened in March last year, when population statistics showed 277 more men than women. The gap has since grown to beyond 12,000. While that’s still small in a population of almost 10 million, it’s “not unreasonable” to suspect that Sweden will have a big male surplus in the future, said Tomas Johansson, a population expert at the national statistics agency, SCB.
Despite a natural birth rate of about 105 boys born for every 100 girls, European women have historically outnumbered men because they live longer.
An Associated Press analysis of national and European Union population statistics suggests women will remain in the majority in most European countries for decades to come. But the number of men per 100 women, known as the sex ratio, is increasing, slowly in Europe as a whole and quickly in some northern and central European countries.
Norway swung to a male surplus in 2011, four years before Sweden, while Denmark and Switzerland are nearing a sex ratio of 100. Germany, which had an unnatural deficit of men after two world wars, has seen its sex ratio jump from 87 in 1960 to 96 last year. Meanwhile, Britain’s sex ratio rose from 93 to 97 in the same period. British statistics officials project that men will be in the majority by 2050.
Researchers don’t have a clear idea of what happens to a society when the population becomes more masculine. (Well duh, rapes by Muslim males soar even higher than they already are)
Tomas Sobotka, of the Vienna Institute of Demography, said in theory a male surplus could increase the bargaining power of women by allowing them to be choosier when picking a partner. But they could also face an increased risk of harassment from frustrated Muslim males struggling to find a woman to rape.
Sweden’s rapid shift to a male majority – which experts didn’t see coming just 10 years ago – has triggered debate among some feminists about the potential impact on women in one of the world’s most egalitarian countries.
Statistics officials say Sweden’s demographic shift is mainly due to men catching up with women in terms of life expectancy. But the arrival in recent years of tens of thousands of unaccompanied teenage boys from Afghanistan, Syria and North Africa is also having a significant impact.
Sweden’s biggest male surplus is in the 15-19 age group, where there are 108 boys for every 100 girls. That imbalance could grow to 115-to-100 this year when the impact of last year’s record number of asylum-seekers – including more than 35 000 unaccompanied minors – is reflected in the population statistics.
Valerie Hudson, director of a programme on women, peace and security at Texas A&M University, said this should make Swedes concerned, because her research has linked skewed sex ratios in China and India to more violence against women and higher crime levels.
What’s happening in Sweden, Hudson said, “is one of the most dramatic alterations of demography over such a short period of time that I’ve ever seen”. She called it ironic that a country considered a beacon of women’s rights isn’t paying more attention to the issue.
How many men there are in a population matters less than how much a society is shaped by “hyper-masculine” gender characteristics such as aggression and hierarchies where males are preferred, True said.
In Sweden, there’s been little discussion about the surplus, perhaps because of the link to Muslim immigration, a sensitive subject in the Nordic country.
Equality Minister Asa Regner, of the governing Social Democrats, twice turned down requests to be interviewed. The main opposition party, the center-right Moderates, also declined to comment.
Overall, the proportion of men in the 28-nation European Union is increasing slowly, according to the bloc’s statistics agency, Eurostat.
In 2003, Sweden’s SCB projected that a male surplus wouldn’t happen until 2050. Three years later it moved up the date by 10 years. It barely had time to recalibrate its projections before the moment arrived last year when men outnumbered women.