I usually like The Washington Times, and tend to agree with its editorial opinions. However, an editorial by Josiah Baker in today’s Times about immigration in Sweden seems to be somewhat off the mark. It doesn’t entirely accord with what I’ve learned in the last year or so both from my contacts in Sweden and in the Scandinavian media.
Here are some excerpts from Mr. Baker’s editorial; Swedish readers are invited to put in their two öre’s worth:
As is true in most European countries, Sweden’s aging population requires a substantial work force to pay for its generous state-mandated pension and medical retirement program. Despite Sweden’s longstanding efforts to provide economic incentives for Swedish women to bear more children, the number of births has fallen short.
Immigrant labor is a convenient substitute for a shortage for native workers. Unlike the United States, where almost all legal immigrants are expected to immediately work upon arrival, Swedish immigrants face numerous legal and cultural obstacles in obtaining employment.
According to my reading, the unemployment rate in Sweden indicates that it is not true that there are jobs waiting in Sweden for industrious immigrants. Native Swedes are having a hard enough finding work themselves. Sweden’s productivity has fallen in recent decades, and its generous welfare system has served to discourage productive work, both by immigrants and by natives.
If the trade unions had their way, immigrants would remain jobless. Union political pressure has imposed legal obstacles to immigrant employment. Getting a job is complicated and expensive for immigrants. The barriers are aimed to support the higher union wages that overwhelmingly dominate the work force. With nearly 90 percent of regular labor unionized (compared to about 12 percent in the U.S.), Sweden has the world’s most unionized labor force. Few Swedes want to admit it, but often immigrants resort to black market jobs.
The above paragraph seems true enough.
Immigrants, in the United States or in Sweden or anywhere else, are almost universally willing to work longer hours for less pay under worse conditions and are less likely to claim disabilities or collect sick pay. They are unpopular with those they displace.
While this may be true in the United States (and I have my doubts), anecdotal and statistical evidence, as cited here repeatedly by Fjordman, demonstrates that many of the newly-arrived immigrants in Sweden intentionally take advantage of the state’s generous welfare benefits, and go on the dole deliberately. What’s more, the immigrants know about these opportunities before they even arrive in Sweden, since word spreads quickly and easily through extended kinship networks from immigrants residing in Sweden to their relatives in the old country. “Come on on over to Malmö, cousin! You can get paid well for doing nothing.”
The editorialist does make a passing acknowledgement of this fact:
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The Swedish welfare state ensures a minimal standard of living for indefinite periods. Therefore, many immigrants accept the union stance and take their time finding work. Economic surveys by the Swedish Ministry of Finance show long-term unemployment for immigrants remain much higher under any circumstance.
And he also says:
“We have more Ph.D.s and engineers driving taxis in Stockholm than any other place in the world,” says Roger Gay, a rare American immigrant. “They [immigrants with technical skills] cannot easily get regular jobs.”
But can native Swedes with the same skills find good jobs without emigrating?
Here’s another assertion that I won’t argue with:
The bridge to Denmark at the southern tip of Sweden symbolizes a newly connected nation. Each day, thousands of cars and trucks cross from Continental Europe and weaken the semi-isolation that kept Sweden politically neutral for almost 200 years. Lund and Malmo across from Copenhagen are inundated daily with foreign people, goods and ideas. Profound changes prominent at the Swedish border are making their way to the heartland.
And Mr. Baker’s conclusion is apt:
Swedish state socialism hinders a flexible response to the onslaught of European Union enforced immigration that potentially represents the greatest social and economic transformation for Northern Europe since the arrival of Christianity.
Notice that Mr. Baker is working under “a grant from the Swedish government to research changes in economic policies in Stockholm”. It may be that a Swedish government paycheck inhibits him from laying out the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
But Swedish readers of Gates of Vienna are not subject to any such inhibitions. Let me know what you think.
Hat tip: Steen.