I am rather surprised to read this article:

Sweden to become a Third World Country by 2030, according to UN

In 2010 Sweden had the 15th place in the HDI rankings but according to UN forecasts, Sweden will be #25 in 2015, and in 2030 on the 45th place.
Sweden is one of few countries with such a sharp deterioration from what it had in 2010.

What makes me very suspicious is the very right-wing political propaganda in the article:

Sweden's leftist establishment and media believe a cornerstone of their perfect society is multiculturalism: large scale immigration from some of the poorest, most backward nations on earth. Swedes who disagree with that plan risk being labeled racist, fascist, even Nazi.

Does the UN study justify the contents of the article (concrete risk of becoming a third-world country due to multiculturalism)?

  • 2
    What exactly is your criteria of being "third-world" country? What exactly is the article-author's criteria? (depending on the source, it very well may be simply "most of population is non-white", with nothing to do with economics)
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 2:42
  • 3
    @dvk: presumably it's whatever criteria the HDI index is based on. Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 2:51
  • 4
    The start of the deterioration in this claim coincides with the start of a right-wing government in Sweden 8 years ago.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 22:46
  • As of 2018, Sweden is at #7, shared with Hong Kong, its HDI at 0.933. Also@gerrit is wrong: Sweden did not have a right wing government starting in 2006 but a center-right bloc government.
    – user32299
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 15:14

2 Answers 2


Page 41 of the referenced study/document does claim that, per its projections/algorithms, Sweden's HDI will drop, from 0.949 to 0.906 (e.g. to 45th place).

45th place is relatively low-ish (for comparison, currently Portugal is in about 45th place) but not "third world" ... the absolute HDI is still above 0.9 ... part of the reason why it's projected to be relatively low is that HDI of other countries are expected to rise.

My initial answer was as follows:

The document talks about how it calculates but doesn't explain it well/clearly enough for me to understand. The document doesn't include the actual calculations for Sweden, only the result of the calculations.

However I think I understand it now, as follows.

The start of the document says,

The model was developed by creating “cohorts” of countries and then by applying demography’s hypothetical cohort approach to observed 1970-2005 country-level changes in HDI.

Looking at the brown lines (cohort 4) on page 45, one of those is downward: I presume that's Sweden; that Sweden's HDI dropped just before the study period; and that Sweden is the only country in its cohort whose HDI dropped.

Because Sweden's HDI dropped, the projection is for it to keep on dropping.

Because other countries were rising in the 2005-2010 period, their HDIs are projected to keep on rising.

Sweden's HDI continuing to drop for 20 years (projected from 2010 through 2030) contrasted with other country's HDI rising for 20 year, is enough to drop Sweden's HDI to 45th place.


  • Yes it says 45th place
  • No that's not 3rd-world
  • It's a naive estimate, based on the assumption that because Sweden's HDI dropped recently it will continue to drop for the next 20 years, and that because other countries rose recently they will continue to rise for the next 20 years.

Even according to the report, even if you accept the report, Sweden is not "dropping fast": it's dropping a little. Dropping even "just a little" adds up if it's projected over 20 years; and looks relatively worse when almost all other countries are rising. But above 0.9 is still good in absolute terms: it's not "deteriorating fast", it's more like going from "top of the high HDI group" to "middle of the high HDI group", with the number of countries in the "high HDI group" increasing.

Perhaps more importantly, the purpose of the paper (for which the paper's methods of projecting was chosen) was to look at the HDI progression of cohorts (i.e. groups of similar countries), not of individual countries.

In fact the whole paper might be a red herring, in that according to footnote 8 on page 29, the document references the following for its 2030 projections:

8 Daponte, B. Osborne and Hu, Difei. “Technical Note on Re-Calculating the HDI Using Projections of Components of the HDI.” April 2010. UNDP/Human Development Report Office.

My guess is that this is the paper which would explain why Sweden's HDI was, uniquely, calculated as dropping; but I haven't found a copy of this document so I can't review it. But even without knowing how Sweden's drop in HDI was calculated, there enough information (explained in this answer) to see how little this alleged drop matters.

A different more recent document i.e. Sweden HDI values and rank changes in the 2013 Human Development Report shows that Sweden's HDI is currently rising (and has always been rising, never falling).

This document also says,

The rank of Sweden’s HDI for 2011 based on data available in 2012 and methods used in 2012 was 7 out of 187 countries. In the 2011 HDR, Sweden was ranked 10 out of 187 countries. However, it is misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, because the underlying data and methods have changed.

In summary I don't think that the "Hypothetical Cohort Model of Human Development" document is a reliable predictor of bad HDI for Sweden.

  • It's a good answer in general, but makes an unwarranted assumption that 45th place is or isn't 3rd world. Really, it's more the problem with the question lacking "3rd world" definition, as per my original comment.
    – user5341
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 3:12
  • 5
    Thanks. The HDI measurement methods have apparently changed so it's difficult to compare exactly, but dropping from 0.949 to 0.906 means dropping 0.04; on the current HDI scale Sweden is 0.898 ... subtracting 0.04 from that would make it 0.858 ... which is equal to where Spain or Greece are now on the current scale and still in a category which Wikipedia calls "Very high human development".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 3:17
  • 4
  • Sweden already is below .9, but seems that in 2010 the methodology has been changed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index#2014_report
    – vartec
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 20:35
  • 1
    @vartec Perhaps more importantly for the argument, it's moving up (very slightly), so a naive projection over the next 20 years would now show a constant rise (and no longer show a constant drop).
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 20:40
  1. Speisa is a right wing propaganda outlet and has other articles denying climate change. [http://speisa.com/modules/articles/index.php/item.521/professor-global-warming-the-biggest-fraud-in-history.html]
  2. Here is the report they are referencing: http://ww.rrojasdatabank.info/HDRP_2010_40.pdf

No. It did not conclude that Sweden would be a third world country or bankrupt.

The report was measuring changes in HDI while also categorizing nations into 4 different cohorts. The rank list putting Sweden below a few countries like Libya was measuring net HDI change over the course of specific years selected in the study. This was not meant to be a prediction of the future, it was just following the curve of development which already occurred and has been observed between two dates. Since Sweden has already been developed and Libya is in a transition to raise their own standard of living, the change in Libya is already pinned to have faster development by default than any changes made within Sweden.

The report also doesn't publish all methods and some of the tables compare nations without accounting cohort differences. This can confuse people to think Sweden is going to be "ranked" below Libya on this index of change in HDI when in fact its just comparing development rates beyond varying baselines previously established by the start date.

This report also prefaced that it was merely following the numbers of current trends which are likely to change. They just followed a curve of arbitrary dates. Since all countries vary in their HDI year by year, they could pick different dates and get a completely different ranking list.

"Thus, the projections should be interpreted as what might occur based on a past global experience with HDI growth, not a normative suggestion as to what will occur"

  • Speisa also have ties with the Norwegian nazi party so yes, they are not very reliable.
    – liftarn
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 9:15

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