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Older Swedes 'see the benefits of immigration'

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Older Swedes 'see the benefits of immigration'
Older Swedes are more positive about immigration than their European counterparts. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson / TT
16:44 CEST+02:00
Swedish pensioners are significantly more positive about immigration than other older people in Europe, according to a new study from the World Bank.

In fact, older Swedes are almost as welcoming as young Swedes, which is unusual in a European context.

According to economist, Hernan Winkler, elderly people in the other countries of Europe would benefit from having an equally positive attitude to immigration as Swedish pensioners.

"European population is aging very fast. Even if immigration will not solve all of Europe's economic problems, more open and flexible rules on immigration would give a dynamic injection to the continent's greying economies," he writes in the introduction of the report entitled “Golden Aging: Prospects for Healthy, Active, and Prosperous Aging in Europe and Central Asia.”

In all countries except Sweden at least 40 percent of the elderly population expressed negativity towards immigration.

Older Europeans are generally much more negative than the younger generations, but in Sweden the difference is small.

"The big question is why older people are not more positive in the rest of Europe. It is a paradox because they are the group that could benefit the most from increased immigration," writes Winkler.

Winkler says that if more working-age immigrants moved to Europe the increased taxation would improve the prospects for savings and pensions. At the same time costs for services such as care and cleaning reduce.

Winkler also points to the experience of countries with higher retirement ages (in Sweden it is possible to retire as late as 67).

“What matters most is if older citizens still work. In countries with an extended retirement age and a higher labor force participation of older workers, natives become less averse to immigrants with age," he says.

"This result is consistent with empirical evidence showing that older workers and young and/or immigrant workers complement each other at the workplace and thereby would mutually benefit from the associated increase in earnings.”

Sweden's open borders have been strongly criticised by opposition groups in recent months. The nationalist Sweden Democrats - backed by 12.9 percent of voters in the last general election - want the Nordic nation to limit immigration and several centre-right parties have mooted the idea of giving refugees temporary rather than permanent residency permits.

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