Sweden launches census plan: 'We have lost control of who lives in our country'

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Sweden launches census plan: 'We have lost control of who lives in our country'
Sweden's Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson and the Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson announce plans to improve the register of who is living in Sweden and where. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Sweden's government, together with the far-right Sweden Democrats, have announced plans for what they claim will be first national census in more than 30 years, with officials potentially checking up on apartments in 'high risk areas'.


Under the plan, announced in a press release on Thursday, the Swedish Tax Agency is being given an addition 500 million kronor to attempt to get a better grasp of how many people are living in Sweden and to propose additional measures that can be taken to improve Sweden's population register by September. 

Sweden's finance minister, Elisabeth Svantesson, said at a press conference that the Tax Agency would not be sending out teams to check up on every single address, meaning planned actions fall short of what many would classify as a census. 

"Quite a lot of doors are going to end up getting knocked on, but we can't do that everywhere. It's not an effective use of taxpayer's money," she said. "A lot of different tools are going to be needed and we are going to give them to the Tax Agency. If they need more tools, they can come back to us and we'll give them to them." 


Sweden held its last official census in 1990, with a questionnaire sent out to every address in the country. Since then, it has used a registration-based system to monitor the population. 

Under the registration-based system, each individual is required to be folkbokförd -- registered in the population database held by the the Swedish Tax Agency -- if they want to access government services, health, and welfare. This database is then used to estimate the number of people living in the country. 

But the Sweden Democrats have long argued that this means people living in Sweden without any right to residency are not counted. The party secured a commitment to hold a census as part of the Tidö Agreement it reached in October with the three government parties. 

"As a result of decades of irresponsible migration policies, we have lost control of how many people and which people are living in our country," Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson said at a press conference alongside Svantesson. 

"A tradition which has lasted for hundreds of years" in Sweden, of maintaining an orderly population register, was under threat, he said.

This creates a risk that the welfare system can be undermined by widespread fraud, with illegal immigrants "exploited by employers" and "exploited by criminals", in what was "a gigantic problem" for society. 

The opposition Social Democrats said that the plans announced fell far short of the census promised under the Tidö Agreement, arguing that this was a positive development. 

"There is nothing to do but welcome the Sweden Democrats and the government to reality and it is good that they have abandoned their fantasies about an enormously cost and ineffective census," Niklas Karlsson, the Social Democrat chair of the parliament's Committee on Taxation told The Local in a written statement. 

He said that the policies announced by the government in fact followed the Social Democrats' own proposals to "bring some order to the population registry". 

"What Svantesson and Åkesson presented today is legislation that we Social Democrats proposed when we were in government," he continued. "We should have a cast iron knowledge of who lives in Sweden and that everyone is registered where they are in fact living." 


Even Åkesson did not commit to door-to-door checks, saying that the Tax Agency would be encouraged to check up on "high risk areas", and to carry out identity controls, but that it would be up to them if they wanted to do this by visiting addresses. 

"Whether they do that by knocking on doors or by some other method is up to them," he said. 

Svantesson said that the government hoped that the exercise would lead a higher quality population register. 

"My aim is that during this mandate period we will have a much better grip on who is in the country and that all the people are living where they are supposed to be," she said.


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