Sunday, August 19, 2007

Are There Jobs That Swedes Won’t Do?

I usually like The Washington Times, and tend to agree with its editorial opinions. However, an editorial by Josiah Baker in today’s Times about immigration in Sweden seems to be somewhat off the mark. It doesn’t entirely accord with what I’ve learned in the last year or so both from my contacts in Sweden and in the Scandinavian media.

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Baker’s editorial; Swedish readers are invited to put in their two öre’s worth:

As is true in most European countries, Sweden’s aging population requires a substantial work force to pay for its generous state-mandated pension and medical retirement program. Despite Sweden’s longstanding efforts to provide economic incentives for Swedish women to bear more children, the number of births has fallen short.

Immigrant labor is a convenient substitute for a shortage for native workers. Unlike the United States, where almost all legal immigrants are expected to immediately work upon arrival, Swedish immigrants face numerous legal and cultural obstacles in obtaining employment.

According to my reading, the unemployment rate in Sweden indicates that it is not true that there are jobs waiting in Sweden for industrious immigrants. Native Swedes are having a hard enough finding work themselves. Sweden’s productivity has fallen in recent decades, and its generous welfare system has served to discourage productive work, both by immigrants and by natives.

If the trade unions had their way, immigrants would remain jobless. Union political pressure has imposed legal obstacles to immigrant employment. Getting a job is complicated and expensive for immigrants. The barriers are aimed to support the higher union wages that overwhelmingly dominate the work force. With nearly 90 percent of regular labor unionized (compared to about 12 percent in the U.S.), Sweden has the world’s most unionized labor force. Few Swedes want to admit it, but often immigrants resort to black market jobs.

The above paragraph seems true enough.

Immigrants, in the United States or in Sweden or anywhere else, are almost universally willing to work longer hours for less pay under worse conditions and are less likely to claim disabilities or collect sick pay. They are unpopular with those they displace.

While this may be true in the United States (and I have my doubts), anecdotal and statistical evidence, as cited here repeatedly by Fjordman, demonstrates that many of the newly-arrived immigrants in Sweden intentionally take advantage of the state’s generous welfare benefits, and go on the dole deliberately. What’s more, the immigrants know about these opportunities before they even arrive in Sweden, since word spreads quickly and easily through extended kinship networks from immigrants residing in Sweden to their relatives in the old country. “Come on on over to Malmö, cousin! You can get paid well for doing nothing.”

The editorialist does make a passing acknowledgement of this fact:
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The Swedish welfare state ensures a minimal standard of living for indefinite periods. Therefore, many immigrants accept the union stance and take their time finding work. Economic surveys by the Swedish Ministry of Finance show long-term unemployment for immigrants remain much higher under any circumstance.

And he also says:

“We have more Ph.D.s and engineers driving taxis in Stockholm than any other place in the world,” says Roger Gay, a rare American immigrant. “They [immigrants with technical skills] cannot easily get regular jobs.”

But can native Swedes with the same skills find good jobs without emigrating?

Here’s another assertion that I won’t argue with:

The bridge to Denmark at the southern tip of Sweden symbolizes a newly connected nation. Each day, thousands of cars and trucks cross from Continental Europe and weaken the semi-isolation that kept Sweden politically neutral for almost 200 years. Lund and Malmo across from Copenhagen are inundated daily with foreign people, goods and ideas. Profound changes prominent at the Swedish border are making their way to the heartland.

And Mr. Baker’s conclusion is apt:

Swedish state socialism hinders a flexible response to the onslaught of European Union enforced immigration that potentially represents the greatest social and economic transformation for Northern Europe since the arrival of Christianity.

Notice that Mr. Baker is working under “a grant from the Swedish government to research changes in economic policies in Stockholm”. It may be that a Swedish government paycheck inhibits him from laying out the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But Swedish readers of Gates of Vienna are not subject to any such inhibitions. Let me know what you think.

Hat tip: Steen.


Vasarahammer said...

"Immigrants, in the United States or in Sweden or anywhere else, are almost universally willing to work longer hours for less pay under worse conditions and are less likely to claim disabilities or collect sick pay"

This is just a general statement that is not relevant for Sweden. You can earn the same by not working as you would earn by working.

There are two things that have in the past been used for covering up unemployment in Sweden. One is sickleave (sjukpenning) and the other is early retirement (förtidspension). If you are on a sickleave or retired that does not prevent you from working in the black markert (svartjobba).

So it is possible to milk the welfare state and work at the same time.

Steen said...

"Immigrant labor is a convenient substitute for a shortage for native workers."

This is bulls..... youth unemployment in Sweden is more than 20 %.

Go to any megastore, Svene Eleven or restaurant i Copenhagen, and you will be served by a swede.

Unknown said...

It is, indeed, largely bunk. Sweden is quiet adept at hiding the true number of unemployed, but if you adjust for the tricks used by the welfare bureaucracies (a few of which vasarahammar recounts above) the unemployment in real terms is staggering, even by European standards.

Of course, various welfare systems are so generous and prevalent that many Swedes - and the vast, vast majority of immigrants, at least those who've arrived for the last 15 years or so - feel it isn't necessary to work. I'll leave it to you to judge the sustainability of a system like that under the yearly influx of another 1% of the total population that gets added to the dole pool.

enigma_foundry said...

According to my reading, the unemployment rate in Sweden indicates that it is not true that there are jobs waiting in Sweden for industrious immigrants. Native Swedes are having a hard enough finding work themselves.

Your information is outdated. Sweden 's unemployment rate is quite low:

Year Unemployment
2006 5.6%
2005 5.8%
2004 5.6%
2003 4.9%
2002 4%

Source: CIA World Factbook

Additionally, there is evidence that Seden keeps better track of the actual numbers unemployed, whereas many unemployed in USA have fallen off the radar of unemployment agencies.

I have had the opportunity to go to Poland almost summer since 1998, and Sweden is viewed as a good place to go to get a well-paid job. Now that Poland and Swden are both in EU, movement there is very easy.

Steen said...

Swedish uenemployment, 15-24 years - aprox. like Rumania (dont count too much on the CIA factbook.).

Chris Bering said...

Never use unemployment statistics. They are notoriously manipulated.

Use total employment instead. It has hovered at around 4 million for the past two years:

Compare that to the total population aged 16 to 64. Excel says 5,852,782:

So, 1.85 million or 31.6% of working age Swedes don't work.

0.96 million or 16.4% of them are in the educational system:

However, there's a significant overlap comprised of people working and studying at the same time.
Looking at the categories and age groups, I think it's reasonable to assume 200k to 300k overlap.
So let's say ~700k of "pure" students, yielding ~1.15 million who neither work nor goes to school.
That's ~20% of the working age population.

By application of the socialist scientific method, that is, through creative accounting and bending of the truth, unemployment is reduced to some arbitrarily selected number, that has been politically determined in advance.

Conservative Swede said...


Unfortunately official figures cannot be trusted. Regarding the Swedish unemployment figures here discussed, I no for a fact that it's a theater act and cannot be trusted.

I quoted Eyvind Vesselbo recently saying that there have come more Turks and Pakistanis to Denmark in 2006 than in 2001.

Your answer to this was "I´m afraid you have gotten that a little wrong. Muslim influx to Denmark is minimal nowadays." And then you present figures from official publications.

The thing, Steen, is that I got it completely right. This is exactly what Eyvind Vesselbo said. So it's him you have your argument with, not with me. The curious thing in all this is that I found the comments of Eyvind Vesselbo through a link from your site, where you approvingly link to a radio program where he participated. But since then, in the comment you made at my blog, you discuss the topic as if Vesselbo didn't exist. I cannot see how you can earnestly comment upon this issue while completely ignoring the position of Vesselbo, especially since you approvingly linked to it yourself. Also you wrote at your site that 17,000 non-Western people enters Denmark each year, especially from China, Pakistan, Africa and Turkey (apparently based on Vesselbo's speech). Something that you countered with your comment at my site, as if you had never written it.

Since you have better means than me to follow the discussion in Denmark, I would be greatful if you could comment upon this issue while including the contrary position of Vesselbo, and not only answer by reading straight from public figures (which I can do easily myself).

Your answer is bound to end up in one of the following categories:

a) That regarding this issue you distrust Vesselbo.
b) That regarding this issue you distrust the public figures.
c) That usually you trust both, so this time you are left clueless.
d) The issue can be resolved thanks to the following additional information...

It's of course also possible to do as Thomas Bolding Hansen and first ignore the very existence of Vesselbo, and then again and again being unable to read and understand the Danish uttered by Vesselbo, change the topic to something else, etc., etc., everything to avoid to answer my question.

I just cannot see why it is so hard to give a straight answer to my question. And if you do not know the answer, just say so.

Conservative Swede said...

Here's a link to the mentioned discussion thread at my site.

And it should of course say "I know for a fact" in my second sentence above.

Unknown said...

I liked Chris Bering sugestion. I will use it myself. In my country they used a trick that artificially reduces unemployment and magnifies employment, putting unemployeds in trainee and then counting them as employed.

X said...

They do that here as well. When I was unemployed right after college I got myself on to what is known as job seeker's allowance. After a certain period of not having a job they place you on a training course, give you a bi more money and count you as employed in training on the statistics.


According to the 'Swedish Labour Market Board' (AMS) 173 000 persons or 3,7 percent of the 'working force' in the end of 07-07 were openly without jobs. It is a reduction with 71 000 or 1,5 percents compared with the same month last year.
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If 3.7% = 173 000, 100% = ~4.7 million.

Last quarter 2006 the totale sum of working persons in Sweden was 4 026 000, first quarter this year it was 3 998 000 (Central Board of Statistics) and in July it was 4 676 000 -- obviously the 'Labour Market Board' is lying -- I'll say, as usual!
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Also I, as Geraldo did, liked 'Chris Bering's sugestion. I have translated his comment to Swedish and it will be published on this blog: