Wednesday, 17 July 2024 21:41

A brief history of immigration in Sweden

Friday, 12 December 2014

Sweden faces a snap election for the first time since 1958. The far-right Sweden Democrats refuse to cooperate with anyone that doesn't slash immigration.

The last time Sweden held an early election, the country's football team made the World Cup final, and a then unknown footballer called Pelé was 17.

The Sweden Democrats, with just under 13% of the vote, caused PM Stefan Lofven's centre-left government to fall after just two months, as the far-right party is refusing to cooperate with any party that doesn't meet their demands to slash immigration.

The Sweden Democrats, founded in 1988 as a white supremacist group, have enjoyed rapid growth among Swedish voters, more than doubling their results twice in the past two general elections. Clearly their views are resonating with a significant proportion of the country's electorate, but why is that?

Sweden recently topped the list of OECD countries when it comes to asylum seekers per capita, but this is no new development. The country has a long history of generous immigration policies, and yet, up until four years ago was relatively unaffected by the growth of far right parties that so many other European countries have experienced.

Today, this is causing a divide between those who see growing immigration as a force for both cultural and economic growth, and those who fear it as a source of societal tension and rising economic cost.

For the majority of Swedes, negative opinions towards immigrants are actually consistently dropping, an annual study from the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg shows. When asked whether the country ought to take in fewer immigrants, most now disagree.

In fact, analysis of election results have shown little correlation between the number of immigrants in an area, and the percentage of voters likely to vote for an anti-immigrant party.

However, figures do indicate that Sweden faces a challenge when it comes to integration. Concerns are more driven by this factor than by the "how much".

Although the country's foreign-born population is actually more likely to have a university education, compared with native Swedes, the country has failed to make use of this.

With doctors and engineers working as cab drivers and cleaners, the OECD International Migration Outlook report shows that Sweden's over-qualification rates are among the worst when compared to other advanced economies.

Unsurprising then, perhaps, that the difference in unemployment levels between foreign-born and native Swedes has always been above EU average - and the gap has widened even more in recent years.

Immigrants in Sweden are now more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their native counterparts. In part this is explained by the integration challenge, but in many cases the children of immigrants of certain ethnic backgrounds need to send twice the number of CVs compared to native-born job applicants before landing a job interview - alongside the challenge, there is also a hint of discrimination.

The Guardian

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