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Sweden and labour immigration debate


Caspian Rehbinder, a liberal opinion-maker with a background in the Center Party (ALDE) and working for the market-liberal think-tank Timbro, writes in his article that “the moderates are now sounding as leftists”. He notes that the Moderates proposal to curb labour immigration is based on misunderstandings on how the labour market and economy works and that their proposal would be damaging for the Swedish economy. According to Rehbinder, it seems that the Moderates have lost their market-liberal compass. 

In the article, Rehbinder presents how Stenergard and other moderates have earlier stated that they are against “kompetensutvisningar” and want Sweden to be an attractive place for talents and the labour force. He writes that according to Moderate’s proposal, around two-thirds of labour migrants would have to leave Sweden. Approximately 90% of labour migrants in Sweden work in areas and with jobs that the Swedish Public Employment Office categorises as “deficit professions” and that labour migrants contribute with 30 billion SEK. Thereby, Rehbinder states that Moderate’s proposal would not lead to lower unemployment or better opportunities for companies and a more dynamic economy in Sweden. 

Also, Rehbinder presented the same arguments via daily and left-leaning Aftonbladet by stating “that someone getting a job does not make somebody else unemployed. A market-liberal party should understand that”. Rehbinder acknowledges that there are problems in the labour market as frauds concerning jobs for labour immigrants but states that such problems can be dealt with without “destroying a whole system”. For example, he proposes that the government via the Swedish Migration Agency can increase employers’ controls of employers in risky sectors and that more information sharing should be allowed between different government agencies. 

The criticism towards the proposal is also coming within the Moderate Party. A more famous example is the article via right-wing leaning Dagens Industri by members of Moderate Youth League chairman Matilda Ekeblad and Erik Engstrand. They express their hope that the party will change its position because the current proposal will make it harder for people to come to Sweden and work.

They argue, among other things, that there is a large number of deficit professions in Sweden, as for example, regarding teachers and programmers. Since the median wage for a teacher is around 26 900 SEK for a teacher and 31 200 SEK for a programmer, the party’s proposal would prevent more people from being able to work in Sweden while it will not solve problems with frauds on the labour market. Ekebland and Engstrand also refer to the Moderate Party new program from 2020, stating that :

Sweden shall be a county to which people want to seek to in order to work, run companies and thereby contribute to the development of our society.

Another liberal opinion-maker with networking connections to Timbro, Mim, hasoensoccur as has also argued that Moderates are “going far long” with their proposals. She writes that problems as frauds and criminal exploitations do take place as it was shown in an SVT (Swedish public service television)  documentary in January regarding certain assistance-care companies and that such behaviours have to be prevented. Her point is that Moderates are going beyond that by demanding measures that are inefficient and protectionist. 

She writes, for example, that Swedish residents can apply for jobs that are advertised in the country and that a report from Almega shows labour immigration resulted in a big economic surplus in public finances, around 1,7 billion SEK. Most labour immigrants are coming here to a deficit profession, and that the claim that job competition is increasing due to labour immigration is untrue.  

Johanna Groenbeack, writing via liberal-leaning BLT argues that Moderates proposal regarding work-line will simply not work. She argues that what Moderates propose is not about creating understanding for the business sector’s labour market and needs. That Moderates are communicating about “defending labour immigration” is an example of creative use of language but not an example of truth. She also argues that it is not an easy process for employers to recruit labour force “in a third country”, meaning outside of the EU, but that it is done when it is really necessary. At the same time, Greoenbaeck supports Moderates proposal about reform of social benefits. 

Confederation of Swedish Enterprise  (Svenskt Näringsliv) has also reacted to Moderate’s proposals and argued against them in several publications. Several reactions can be found via Arbetsmarknadsnytt (Labour Market News) website owned by Svenskt Näringsliv. Here it is mentioned about criticism from Almega’s economist Patrick Joyce stating that Moderate’s proposal is a “deathblow against the idea that the Swedish labour market should be open for everyone who wants work here”. According to Joyce, many companies, as those who need to recruit cooking chefs,  will simply not do that. A similar position is held by  Li Ljungberg at Teknikföretagen, stating that even IT-companies will have problems recruiting employees. 

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