Grey and Growing: The Capital of Scandinavia is Growing Grey

Yesterday I read ‘Where are all the Baby Boomers Going to Live?’, which appeared on Citylab last Tuesday. As I am planning on writing my master’s thesis on the implications of an aging population on urban planning - currently working on becoming a little more specific, but I’m also glad that I already got this figured out- I looked up the executive summary.  

In 2010 the first Baby Boomers have reached the retirement age, and by 2030 this group of retirees will have grown till 73 million. A quick comparison to the population projections of the US tells me that it will be just over 20% of the entire population.  

This information made me mostly wonder what the situation is like in the city I live in, Stockholm. I have read at several places that Sweden, like most western countries, is facing a relative increase of its elderly population.  

Unfortunately, it seems like the demographic projections of Stockholm’s statistical database do only go up to 2023. According to those projections, 15.2% of the cities inhabitants will be over the legal retirement age (65) by that time. Considering that currently the percentage of elderly is 14.3, it doesn't seem as a shocking difference.  

Longer term projections are provided by the Statistiska Centralbyrån, the Swedish governmental institution for statistics. Although providing projections up till 2060 for Sweden, their data concerning individual municipalities provide numbers up till 2030. The only downside is the data comes as one big boring excel file, so I created some more user friendly visualizations. 

Age distribution of Stockholm's population 2011-2030. Data source: Statistics Sweden. Own adaptation.

Age distribution of Stockholm's population 2011-2030. Data source: Statistics Sweden. Own adaptation.

The first graph shows the age distribution of the Stockholm population from 2011 up till 2030. The general population growth of the Swedish capital is what captures the eye most. From 895,323 in 2014 till 1,013,450 in 2030. That’s 100,000 people, or 11% of today’s population! In a city with an extreme housing shortage that’s a nice challenge.  

When we take a closer look at the projections of the age distribution of the Stockholm population one thing becomes clear: the share of the population that is in their tax paying years (20-64) is declining. The retiree group is the only real grower, considering that the group of people under 19 is becoming smaller after 2023. Most strikingly is that the group of retirees rises from being less than a quarter of the working age group, to almost a third.  

Age distribution of the population of Stockholm 2014-2023-2030. Data source: Statistics Sweden. Own adaptation.

Age distribution of the population of Stockholm 2014-2023-2030. Data source: Statistics Sweden. Own adaptation.

It will be interesting to see how Stockholm will deal with these changing demographics. In the late sixties and early seventies Stockholm has dealt with housing shortages by a massive modernistic construction effort, called the million program. However, the aging population, and newer insights in environmental and social sustainable urban development, will force the city to come up with innovative ideas to adapt.  


Written by Sascha Benes. Follow him on Twitter, Linkedin and .