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'Immigrant areas have fewer social problems'

Published: 03 Feb 2013 09:16 GMT+01:00
Updated: 04 Feb 2013 12:19 GMT+01:00

"The 20 best towns have more immigrants than average, that is to say 14.4 percent. There is no tendency whatsoever for towns with high numbers of immigrants to have worse results than others," said Stefan Fölster, head of the Reform Institute which published the new report.

In a debate article in the Dagens Nyheter daily, Fölster pointed out that central Sweden has regions where unemployment, welfare-dependency and private credit problems are close to the levels of Greece and Spain.

Fölster noted that many of these areas also have lower levels of immigration.

"In actual fact the integration problems which are commonly associated with immigrant areas are at least as common in areas which have fewer immigrants," Fölster.

Fölster exemplified Munkfors in central Sweden where youth unemployment tops 36 percent, and Töreboda in western Sweden where 21 percent are subject to Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden) orders for non-payment of debts.

The development index used in the report is based on the UN Human Development Index with 18 different categories adapted to Sweden.

The five main categories considered are: schools, employment, health, money and 'hopelessness and alienation'.

Several areas of Sweden which have significant immigrant populations performed well in the index, including small regional towns such as Älmhult and Mullsjö in southern Sweden.

"The conclusion is by no means that the integration problems for some immigrant groups are negligible. It is instead we see that there are many Swedes in towns with few immigrants whose 'integration problems' are at least as serious as among some immigrant groups," Fölster said.

Furthermore the survey indicated that mental health problems, caused for example by depression and bullying, are less common among 16-year-old's living in areas with above average numbers of immigrants.

Fölster argued that the surprising results indicated that the debate about Sweden's social problems needs to be broadened from its immigrant focus.

"A pseudo-debate about the effects of immigration is allowed to hide the fact that Sweden has large and growing social problems in areas with few immigrants."

Fölster, who was previously employed as chief economist at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv), proposed a range of measures to address the "high thresholds and the lack of enterprise" that exists in many areas.

Some of these areas are post-industrial towns where factories have closed shop and the population has moved away to larger urban areas, such as Söderhamn in northern Sweden.

Fölster however argued that there are several successful examples of regeneration in towns which suffered a similar fate, such as Åtvidaberg and Hallstahammar in central Sweden.

The report observed that the problems in many Swedish towns are caused by a number of mechanisms, including falling property prices, high construction costs and poor competitiveness on the wage market.

Fölster also argued that the Swedish system of municipal equalization in which tax revenues are re-allocated from richer to poorer areas, is negative for growth in poorer localities.

He furthermore called for a more open and honest debate on the challenges facing many deprived areas of Sweden.

"Sweden's political parties are very reluctant to discuss these fundamental mechanisms, which has opened a pseudo-debate about the impact of immigrants."

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

Follow Peter on Twitter here.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

10:54 February 3, 2013 by what would thomas paine do
Doesn't this in part at least demonstrate that the state has failed to provide its promised services to ethnic Swedes?
11:32 February 3, 2013 by bourgeoisieboheme
This is the most misleading article I have read to date on the local. It's comparing small cities in Sweden which have had a collapse in the economy due to the loss of industry, of course unemployment and debt is higher there. The article then compares these sorts of towns to say, Stockholm, which has low unemployment and debt.... and yes, high immigration but it says nothing about the per capita level of immigration and their rates of unemployment and debt. Since immigrants move to the largest and best off cities en masse, then it is impossible to compare those cities against small post industrial cities in Sweden in regards to social issues, debt, or unemployment.
12:09 February 3, 2013 by entry
If BS is abuse, this article should be reported.
12:53 February 3, 2013 by Rey Stockholm
This report is a load of propoganda bull ____ how can they expect people to fall for this biased rubbish !
13:15 February 3, 2013 by Byggare Bob
A tricky report to write, what with all the racial biologists lying in wait.

Important to note that neither the report, nor the article, proposes higher immigration to deprived areas in order to stimulate regeneration.

But what it does do, in a thought provoking way, is burst the seemingly sacrosanct causal link between immigration and social problems.

Ethnic Swedes suffer from social problems, commit crimes, experience depression and alienation and these are caused by a range of factors.

Folster is an economist thus his solutions are understandably based on economic theory. There are of course all sorts of social analysis that could explain the gulfs in wealth and development. Issues of class and opportunity are clearly far more important than race/culture and so on.

Furthermore the examples of Älmhult, Hallstahammar show that this can not simply be explained away by urban flight, as the poster at 11:32 claims.

What this report does show is that high levels of immigration are not the determinant variable at the root of all Sweden's ills. Hence the reference to the pseudo-debate that this thread is hitherto an example of.
13:44 February 3, 2013 by muscle
yeah right. they forgot that in order to save money many immigrants live together in the same apartment. God forbid, if there is any outbreak of any disease, these areas would suffer the most due to the very same social life.
14:44 February 3, 2013 by occassional
Keep lowering the standards and nothing is a problem anymore.
14:49 February 3, 2013 by dekamikaze
These people must have swallowed the stupid pills...this is the definition of stupidity at the highest and purest!
15:00 February 3, 2013 by Rap43
A thoughtful article that many in those depressed areas will be happy to see I suspect. Perhaps it will spark some kind of real debate about all of the problems facing Swedish society, not just those that suit political parties seeking to gain power.

Focusing exclusively on immigration-related issues, or any other single issue, is wrong. It warps the fundamental purpose of our democratic state.
15:11 February 3, 2013 by k2kats
I agree Byggare Bob!

I love it when people allow facts to interfere with their opinions.
17:50 February 3, 2013 by johan rebel
Ethnic Swedes suffer from social problems, commit crimes, experience depression and alienation and these are caused by a range of factors"

Yes indeed, and that is all the more reason to stop more people guaranteed to have social problems, commit crimes, experience depression and alienation from flooding into the country..

Rather spend resources and money on dealing with existing problems than compounding them by adding more people whose short and longterm contribution to society will, on balance, be zero or negative.

More immigrants? By all means, just make sure to admit only the ones who can pay their own way instead of being a burden on society.
17:52 February 3, 2013 by Rey Stockholm
@k2kats look at the facts of prison populations by group, crime stats for immigrants you will see some scary facts which may influence your opinion
18:20 February 3, 2013 by jostein
Fölster takes intellectual dishonesty to new levels in this article. Avpixlat has a piece that totally obliterates him. But to those who cant understand that from reading the article in DN and doing some thinking on their own, well, they are beyond help.
19:29 February 3, 2013 by grymagnusson
@rey stockholm

93% of new prison inmates in 2011 were men.
20:43 February 3, 2013 by cogito
"This is the most misleading article have read to date on the local. (#1)

"If BS is abuse, this article should be reported".(#2)

"This report is a load of propoganda bull ____ how can they expect people to fall for this biased rubbish "! (#3)

But of course. It's written by that Peter Simpson person. Can't think why TL keeps this clown around.
21:05 February 3, 2013 by Eric1
All "studies" have political motivations.
04:20 February 4, 2013 by nathan45
What a pile of liberial propaganda. I can't belive the absolute BS i just read.
06:33 February 4, 2013 by Frobobbles
So the report says that you have to go look for the swedish analogy to a north english abandoned coal miners town, to see more problems than in areas with many immigrants. What a surprise.
08:50 February 4, 2013 by RobinHood
The Reform Institute has today announced that the Pope is not Catholic, and that bears do not poo in the woods.
10:50 February 4, 2013 by Great Scott
I laugh at the naivety of some of the comments here. The shear denial some people will go to pretend this is not happening in Sweden. In high unemployment areas or areas of low income problems always exist and that goes for anywhere in the world. However some people can't accept the fact it is happening on their own back door step in Sweden. People living in areas where jobs are not so much a problem e.g. Stockholm etc. fail to see what's going on in the rest of Sweden. "Sweden has regions where unemployment, welfare-dependency and private credit problems are close to the levels of Greece and Spain." This is a fact and it's getting worse. The comments above are those expected from right wing Muppets. Fact is Sweden has very high unemployment figures, and the government does not count those that are studying or the 50,000 that are forced onto Fas3.
13:05 February 4, 2013 by dekamikaze
That's why Malmö is the best city in sweden right doombass?
15:25 February 4, 2013 by k2kats
I'm pleased that there is a study on immigration, with at least some attempt at objectivity, no matter how limited it is.

It appears that some folks are frustrated that if this study challenges their personal point of view and/or may may be trying to generalize this small study to all immigration in Sweden.

A Gestalt approach is needed to more thoroughly study immigration, its impact on Sweden, and Sweden's impact on immigrants. If, for example, some populations are more highly represented in Sweden's prison system, is it because of genuinely bad actors or the impact of discriminatory acts and financial circumstances? What roles do unemployment or under-employment play? What immigration policies, if any, could be changed to eliminate some of the pent-up frustrations for both immigrants and their Swedish hosts?
15:46 February 4, 2013 by tr2001
this report should be ultimately true. jobless, unhappy or angry "ethnic" Swedes, blame it all to immigrants about their problems rather than seeking the problem inside. on the other hand, immigrants bring a new level and competition to social relationships, business and whatsoever of natives making their lives more challenging but leading to a higher probability of success.
06:06 February 5, 2013 by Biorealist
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
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