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Swedish integration policies 'a failure'

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13:49 CEST+02:00
Immigrants to Sweden continue to flock to a few, high-immigrant concentration areas, new statistics show, prompting one politician to conclude the country's integration politics have failed.

According to a fresh report from Statistics Sweden (SCB), the number of inhabitants with foreign backgrounds has escalated in all of the country's most immigrant-dense areas over the past ten years.

Employment has increased to some extent in many city districts, and the number of individuals reliant upon government benefits has decreased to an equal degree.

By far the greatest change, however, relates to the concentration of inhabitants with a foreign background, which has increased dramatically in most of the 38 city districts.

"What the statistics show is that our migration and integration policies have totally failed," said Anders Lago, the Social Democratic mayor of Södertälje, to the TT news agency.

For 38 the districts deemed to have a high concentration of immigrants, from Malmö's Rosengård in the south to Hertsön in Luleå in the north, municipalities have signed special development agreements with the Swedish government.

The goal of the agreements is to improve coordination between the state and the various municipalities and to increase cooperation between administrative authorities and the private and non-profit sectors within each district.

In order to follow the development process, the government has also requested Statistics Sweden with tracking developments in all 38 districts.

The initial results of the agency's investigation, presented on Wednesday, paint a dismal picture of how well Sweden has succeeded in promoting a diverse society over the past ten years, with the concentration of foreign born increasing in most of the districts surveyed.

"In practice, more of these areas are functioning like huge refugee reception centres. They become a passage way for asylum seekers and refugees, which makes it clear that this is a very, very, serious problem for society," said Lago.

In Ronna, a district of Södertälje, south of Stockholm, for instance, the concentration of inhabitants with a foreign background has increased from 66 to 84 percent in ten years.

In Linköping's Skäggtorp neighbourhood in central Sweden, the concentration has increased from 22 to 49 percent.

In nine of the 38 districts, more than 80 percent of inhabitants have a foreign background. The most densely populated immigrant district was Hjällbo in Gothenburg, with a concentration of 90 percent.

Sweden's Minister for Integration, Nyamko Sabuni, however, refused to see the increased concentration of immigrants in city districts as an indication of the success or failure of Sweden's integration politics.

“The purpose of integration politics is not to spread people out. We don't see it as a problem that many individuals with a foreign background live in areas with a high concentration of immigrants. The problem is that many people with an immigrant background are unemployed. The purpose of integration politics is to support people so they can establish themselves in the job market,” she told the TT news agency

“The statistics show that employment is on the rise and the need for economic support is decreasing, which is encouraging.”

The agency's statistics also contained data on a number of positive developments, including a marked increase in the number of gainfully employed individuals in most city districts.

Both Andersberg in Halmstad and Hjällbo in Gothenburg witnessed a 19 percent increase between 1997 and 2007. In 2007, almost half the population of both districts was employed.

Similarly, during the same period, the number of working individuals in Rosengård rose from 19.9 to 34.2 percent, while employment figures for the entire country oscillated between 72 and 78 percent.

In most districts, the proportion of inhabitants receiving government benefits dropped by as much as six percent between 2004 and 2007.

Despite this reduction, in areas such as Rosengård almost 26 percent of the population retained some form of economic support in the year 2007.

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