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A European Demographic Revolution

June 18, 2016

In March 2015 Sweden counted 12,000 more men than women.

This was the first time this demographic phenomenon was observed since record-keeping began in 1749. By March 2016 the “male surplus” was surging impressively, if not dramatically: a year ago there were 277 more men than women in Sweden; there are now 12,000. By year’s end, Sweden could reach a 15% males surplus in the 15-19 age group (115 men for every 100 women).

The natural birth rate is historically 105 boys for every 100 girls, but women have always been more because they live longer. That is no more, apparently.

In countries where women are not socially valued, this is to be expected. According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, in 2015, the world’s second-largest economy recorded a sharp decline in working age population, Wall Street Journal Reports. The 16-59 age group shrank by 4,87 million people in 2015. What is more worrisome is that China is feeling a dramatic “women deficit.” This was a side-effect of a male-dominated society and the one-child policy. When forced to have one child, Chinese preferred boys, which led to sex-selective abortion, infanticide at birth, and non-registration of female babies.

But, in Europe, the challenge is quite different, especially in countries that spearhead gender equality policies, like Sweden. Norway observed the same phenomenon in 2011; Denmark and Switzerland are about to reach Swedish “sex ratios” in the coming year. Germany and the U.K will follow.

Interestingly, in poorer countries of Europe’s southern periphery, the scale is tipping towards women, with their population rising as compared to men. This may be corroborating the immigration thesis of changing gender balance.

One explanation is men catching up on life expectancy. Another is immigration of tens of thousands of young men from Afghanistan, Syria, and North Africa are becoming more demographically significant. Both factors are likely to weigh in.

Sweden took in over 100,000 asylum seekers, including 35,000 mostly male unaccompanied minors. At the same time, male life expectancy is increasing in Western Europe, where boys drink and smoke less, and working conditions are changing to favour white collar occupations.

The question for gender studies experts is whether this shift in demographics will also bring a shift in moral, values, and policies. And if that were the case, are women appreciating or devaluing their relative social power by decreasing in number. That is a question that could stay with Europe for years to come.