Norway’s fertility rates have reached all-time lows, risking the country’s economic stability. Muslim immigrants are keeping the labour force alive, as the country undergoes demographic changes.
Muhammad was the most popular name among male children in Oslo in 2018, for the 11th year in a row, according to statistics released on Wednesday by the Norwegian Statistics Department.
The name, with its many variations, surpassed Oscar, Aksel and Jacob as it maintained its lead.
Mohammad has been the most popular name in Oslo since 2008, reflecting a strong and growing Muslim community in the large city.
In 2017, 8.7 percent of Oslo’s population identified as Muslims, with their largest communities originating from ethnic Pakistanis, Somalis, Iraqis and Morrocans.
Nearly 40,000 Norwegian Pakistanis make up the largest ethnic group among Norwegian Muslims. Many migrated to the country as guest workers in the 1960s to 1970s and played a significant role in the country’s construction and development.
Oslo is home to the largest immigrant population in the country. Out of Oslo’s 624,000 residents, almost 190,000 are immigrants or born to immigrant parents, making up nearly 31 percent of the city’s population.
Falling birth rates, changing demographics
The statistics department also found evidence of demographic change underway, with fewer traditional Norwegian surnames ending with “sen”, as with as Jensen, Hansen or Andersen. Today, “sen” surnames make up only 14.7 percent of the population, compared to 22.4 percent in 1995.
While Norway once enjoyed a significant baby boom after World War II, that lasted until the mid-1960s. But it has been struggling with low fertility rates since the 1980s.
The fertility rate, once a high 2.9 in 1960, has fallen to 1.7 in 2018, according to the World Bank.
The minimum fertility rate in any country needs to sustain its population, without including migration, is 2.1.
If this rate is not met, the country faces the challenges of an increasingly aged workforce eventually in need of care, with an increasing burden on young people to care for the elderly. Faced with this responsibility, young people are more likely to remain unmarried or have fewer children altogether.
With a decreasing labour force that has no prospect of renewal, economic productivity falls, while government budgets are forced to spend more on social security and health care.
Muslims in Norway
While Muslims in Norway are a minority, Islam is the second largest religion in the country after Christianity. Meanwhile, an increased number of Norwegians are choosing to become Muslim, according to reports by Norway’s leading Verdens Gang newspaper, up to 3,000 in recent years from 500 during the 1990s.
Research estimates that the number of Muslims in Norway varies between 120,000 (2005) and 163,000 (2009). The Pew Research Centre estimates that with a high flow of migration, this number could reach 2,200,000 by 2050.