“Closeness to fellow countrymen can actually be positive, especially if the group has a relatively strong socioeconomic position,” write economists Oskar Nordström Skans and Olof Åslund in an article published in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
In their presentation of the 2009 report on welfare by the Swedish Centre for Business and Policy Studies (SNS), the authors point out that there is no research to suggest that the ethnic makeup of people in one’s surroundings has a decisive role in how well an individual integrates into the labour market or in school.
While Sweden’s current placement system, based on a strategy of spreading refugees to various locations around the country and providing incentives to move to regions with fewer immigrants, does reduce housing market discrimination, it also makes it harder for immigrants to enter the labour market, according to Skans and Åslund.
“Our conclusion from this review is that a policy which aims to control immigrants’ residency patterns is wrong,” they write.
The authors suggest instead that politicians should focus on the underlying problems such as long-term unemployment and poverty in large immigrant communities.
Skans and Åslund add that it is “self-evident” that immigrants who come to Sweden should live by the same obligations and responsibilities as others when it comes to abiding by Swedish law.
“But with that it follows as well, in our opinion, that society ought to treat those who immigrate as equal members of society with the same rights as others,” they write.
“Even if society neither can nor ought to even out all disparities, such an outlook can hardly allow for the huge socioeconomic differences we now see.”
In the eyes of Skans and Åslund, society ought to accept the choices that immigrants make about their schools, careers, partners, and where they choose to live “just as one obviously accepts the choices of other members of society”.
“We have a hard time seeing how segregation which can occur through voluntary choices can be a bigger problem than the fact that residents of Småland often get married to other people from Småland,” they conclude.