More immigrants needed “to pay for welfare”

More immigrants should be allowed into Sweden in order to safeguard the welfare system. That’s the view of Pär Nuder, Sweden’s finance minister.

Speaking at a conference on demography at Statistics Sweden, Nuder argued that getting more people with a foreign background into the labour force is “totally crucial” for securing the Swedish welfare state.

Nuder stated that he was open to the idea of sanctioning new immigration and that such a measure may enhance existing integration policies.

“Importing labour can break new ground and serve as a model for others. At the minimum it can get employers and others to realise the value of the immigrants that are already here”

He gave the example of foreign doctors who work in lightly populated areas of Sweden as a good model for what he has in mind.

Nuder explained that the key to preserving the welfare state involves increasing the total number of hours worked by the Swedish labour force. This can be achieved by getting young people into jobs earlier than today and encouraging older workers to remain in employment for longer. However, Nuder submitted that the greatest potential of all lies in people with a foreign background who are already living here.

He pointed out that currently some 60% of people who have moved to Sweden are in employment. If this figure could be raised to 80% which is the level for native Swedes, this would result in 115,000 new jobs and a gain of 17-18 billion SEK annually for the public finances.

The Finance Minister stressed that integration is more important than allowing imported labour.

“Integration is much more effective than immigration. A person already residing in the country, who goes from not working to being employed, provides a greater economic benefit for society than in the case of a person who has just arrived in the country”

Nuder was speaking ahead of the release of a report by a former deputy prime minister, Lena Hjelm Walléns, on the issue of imported labour.

David Murphy

David Murphy is managing director of Word of Mouth Communications