Stig-Björn Ljunggren, political scientist, thinks it's reasonable to calculate how much immigration costs society. Immigration minister Tobias Billström thinks the debate should be more about immigration as a positive force.
Ljunggren is a professor of national economy and works at the Center for Labor Market Policy Research at Växjö university. He speaks of Bromölla municipality, which ended up in trouble when they wanted to make an account of immigration in the city. People like Marita Ulfskog, Social Democrats party secretary, opposed it.
Ljunggren says people should be able to check immigration just like everything else. There are different ways of calculating things such as unemployment and sick leaves Like all other economic activities it depends on which parameter people choose. Despite that he is certain that it's possible to calculate how much immigration costs society.
Why is it such a sensitive issue? Ljunggren says that political parties in Sweden have for a long time avoided speaking about these questions. But even when people want to be nice and repress their feelings, they are still there.
Ljunggren says that the Liberal People's Party had been criticized for starting to speak of the issues like a language test, saying that openness about such questions can lead to a xenophobic debate like the one in Denmark.
When people start talking about taboos, things start to surface. For example, until the mid-70s you weren't allowed to show sex on TV, but today there is no problem with it.
But despite what people think about taboos, they should be analyzed and discussed, since we live in a society which should be transparent. He says everybody should stand up to scrutiny - pensioners who live in Spain and come home for medical treatment, Stockholm vs. the northern areas, what it costs to have Scania in Sweden or what it costs Scania to stay in Sweden.
Jan Ekberg, a professor of national economy at Växjö university has researched the cost of immigration. he has researched immigrants' position in the job market since the 70s, how it has changed over time and how the public sectors divide the costs between immigrants and natives.
Ekberg says that in the 60s and 70s people thought that immigrants had a favorable age composition. Most were in employable ages and immediately entered the job market, contributing to the tax base. At the same time, people didn't look at the demands on the public sectors, the composition went to the native population.
From the 1980s immigrants' employment has worsened. It reached bottom in the 90s but has improved in the last ten years. Unemployment among immigrants is still higher, but their age composition is more favorable than among the natives.
Ekberg stresses that even if immigration has moved from guest worker immigration like in the 60s to refugee and family reunification immigration, the group has a lower age average than native Swedes. Just 2%-3% are over 65, compared with 18% among the native population, but the high unemployment works against the favorable age composition.
It costs the native population in taxes and social security fees, a difference he calculates as 40 billion kroner annually. He doesn't take into his calculation the richer cultural offering or new foods, but rather bases it on the public sector's expenses and income. The second generation is also in the statistics.
He doesn't think his research is risky, and that it's better to put lay the cards on the table, since the xenophobic debate speaks of much higher numbers. He says he's gotten mostly positive reactions, and some appreciate that people try to be honest.
Jan Ekberg emphasizes that since immigrants are younger than the natives the costs show an unsuccessful integration politics rather than anything about immigration itself. If people will be successful in getting the immigrants into gainful employment like the native population, the trend will change again.
Tobias Billström, the immigration minister for the Moderate Party, says that their support for worker immigration doesn't look mainly at the social economics but rather partially on the need of companies for workers and the shortage in various sectors and partially on the basis that people who want to work should be welcomed in Sweden.
Will there be a report similar to that made in the UK? He doesn't think that the government's task is to drive research and that researchers are free to do as they will. Such research is already being carried out at Växjö University.
He says that unfortunately many people think that immigrants to Sweden are those who have involuntarily left their homeland to seek shelter in Sweden and are therefore victims. The debate should be more about immigration as a positive force in a more globalized world. The majority of people who immigrate in the world do so looking for a better economic future, and the debate in Sweden should be more about how we can benefit of that force.
Source: Realtid (Swedish)
See also: UK: Immigration has 'little or no impact' on economic well being, Drammen: Need for accounting of money going to immigrants