Sweden is generally considered a rich country, right?
Right, and of course it is, if you compare it with, say North Korea or Southern Sudan or Somalia.
But the truth is that many Swedes live very close to poverty level. Some 1.7 million Swedes, out of 9.2, are retired. Many of those, particularly some 800,000 unmarried or widowed women, subsist on the lowest pension, less than 8,000 SEK a month (little over $1,000). That is: before taxes.
Since Sweden is a high cost country (not the least because labor is so heavily taxed) this makes for a very low standard of living. Again, not Somalia or North Korea, but low nevertheless. The cheapest possible foodstuffs, no vacation trip, indeed hardly any trip at all and no car—gasoline is moving in the direction of three dollars per liter.
Quite a few people who are n o t retired subsist on the same low income. Exact statistics are not available, but I think that altogether at least 2.2 million Swedes have great difficulties making ends meet. As anyone can see, that is about a fourth of the population. The fact that many thousands receive various forms of support (housing, child, etc.) makes the picture a bit less bleak ... a bit, but not much.
On a proportional basis, the more than one million and a half immigrants that live in the country (often in ghettos in the larger cities) are worse off than pure Swedes. The reasons: Many were over age when they came, others could not speak Swedish or had no marketable skills—Somali shepherds do not easily find jobs in Sweden and the same goes for Kurdish farmers. All in all, the unemployment in Sweden today is some 9.2 percent, but for immigrants of working age the number is at least double. In light of this it might seem quite reckless (if I dare use that word) to allow another 102,280 (an all time record) into the country in 2009, but that is what one did.
We have to make sure that the population growth does not stagnate, say the enthusiasts. Well and good, but how to get the newcomers to work? The question remains unanswered.
Unluckily for Sweden, articles like this one appear very seldom in Swedish newspapers. There is no formal censorship, of course, but publishers, TV-bosses and other decision makers—not to mention politicians—are dead scared to be labeled “hostile to foreigners” (främlings fientliga). It has become more or less a sin to say anything critical at all about the country's immigration policy. There is no doubt at all that the proverbial man (or woman) in the street is deeply worried over the situation and sometimes indeed hostile, but media keep silent and there is no sign that the powers that be have any ideas whatsoever about what to do with the situation.
So, as we continue down the track the Swedes grow older and older. In 2040, there will be 2.4 million Swedes, the majority women, over 65 years of age. The overwhelming majority must be supported by the taxpayers who already carry a heavier burden than almost any other nationals in the world. So year after year, the Swedish working stiff will have to support more and more pensioners, many of whom are “foreigners” (another word it is not politically correct to use) who never worked a day in their new country.
In Sweden there is only one political party, the Swedish Democrats (SD, Sverige Demokraterna) that is openly against more immigration. If you think they will do well in the elections next September, you are not wrong. …
(First published in Nordstjernan, 04-30-2010)