Sweden’s welfare system discourages immigrants from working
Posted by Judy K. Warner on March 17, 2008
A Wall Street Journal article today makes a good point about welfare and immigrants:
Especially for immigrants, the first signal from Swedish society is not that you ought to work, let alone become self-employed. The message is that the state will take care of you.
In the Western world, Sweden is often considered a Social Democratic paradise, the irrefutable proof that the welfare state can transform society for the better. But outsiders, and still too many Swedes, tend to overestimate the gains and underestimate the costs of social engineering.
He goes on to compare the attitude of European countries with that of the United States.
High unemployment among immigrants is of course not confined to just Sweden or Scandinavia. Throughout Europe, governments have found that well-intentioned social insurance policies can lead to lasting welfare dependence, especially among immigrants. Belgium is the European country with the highest difference in employment rates between the foreign-born and natives. The images of burning cars in the suburbs of Paris that were broadcast around the world illustrate the kind of social and economic problems France is facing with its restive immigrant population.
Given the high barriers to entry, many immigrants in Europe no longer start accumulating essential language and labor market skills. This is in stark contrast with the situation across the Atlantic. For example, in 2000, Iranians in the U.S. had a family income that was 42% above the U.S. average. The income of Iranian immigrants in Sweden, however, was 39% below the country’s average.
The high unemployment rate is not only a drain on public finances. It also removes the most efficient path to integration. Permanent welfare addiction has an adverse and long-lasting effect on immigrant communities and their norm formation.
When many adults in a neighborhood no longer work for their living, the younger generation is less likely to acquire necessary work ethics. If their role models are unemployed, chances are that they’ll remain on the fringes of the host society as well. This can set off a vicious cycle of social tensions.
Sweden has begun to realize how dysfunctional their system is. We’ve posted several times on Sweden. They’re tightening up their immigration laws, destroying themselves culturally and demographically, and now sending back Iraqi asylum seekers.
The Swedes recently elected a somewhat more conservative government. Will they be able to save themselves in the nick of time? Meanwhile, we should take a lesson from all this and be careful about too much welfare for immigrants. We realize that many refugees need considerable government aid to get started. But in addition to helping refugees find a place to live and a job, it should be in the form of English lessons, lessons in American culture and society, and other reality-based help.
All those immigrants who are constantly invoked — the huddled masses of previous generations, which include my grandparents and Ann’s parents — worked hard to make their way here. Their children grew up with the example of these hard-working parents. Whenever children grow up thinking the state should provide for them, disaster follows. Whether immigrant or native, all Americans should grow up realizing that we should support ourselves.
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