Monday, January 24, 2011

Swedish Fantasies Exclude Immigrants

The Local is currently running a section with articles from the Sweden Institute (SI), promoting life in Sweden. What is the SI? Their website explains that the SI is a “strategic communication” organization, which promotes Sweden. SI has a government-provided budget of approximately SEK 225 million (about $33.9 million); its board is appointed by the government and “comprises the Director-General and representatives of various public sectors.”  This is the Swedish government’s promo (or propaganda) organization.
So, as a non-Swede looking in from the outside, I took a look at the official government depiction of life in Sweden to get an idea of what life is “really” like in Sweden.

In the article  entitled “Swedish society — democracy, equality and tolerance”, the authors describe “average family life” in Sweden, where its citizens have “one of the highest standards of living in the world” and Sweden is “a role model for many other countries.”

Here we are introduced to the "Swedish Model”—not a blonde girl eating gravlax, but an imaginary “Swedish family, the Johanssons: Anna Maria, 42, Lars Erik, 39, Simon, 15, and Emma, 12.”  The “Johanssons” are “based on statistical averages for Sweden from 2006 as reported by Statistics Sweden as well as other facts.”  In a statistical innovation, Anna has a younger husband because “women live longer”. Wondering where else this would go, as it was based on 5-year-old stats and “other facts”, I read on.

-“The Johanssons live in the small city of Växjö (280 miles, or 450 kilometers, south-west of Stockholm) in a house…They have chosen to live in Växjö mainly because of the city's focus on sustainability and its proximity to nature.”

Växjö, “the greenest city in Europe”, has a very small-town Swedish image, but even in Växjö, the population is now 14% foreign-born.  However, these foreigners appear neither as the Johanssons’ neighbors in the SI article, nor did I find any pictures of them on the Växjö municipal website.
But there’s more to the lush lifestyle of the Johanssons than life in idyllic Växjö:
-“The Johanssons also have a summer house in the country, along with half of the 35 to 44-year-olds. Their silver-colored Volvo takes them to and from the summer house.”

Very nice! Anna has a younger husband, two kids, a summer home, and they also have a Volvo in a tasteful color! Actually, Sara tells me, the Johanssons are to some extent representative of a certain segment of the Swedish population. But, as I mentioned before, the article uses old statistics of 1.9 children per couple instead of the 2010 estimate of 1.67. The article also admits that most 39-year-old Swedish men are not married, and in fact, Sweden has the highest rate of single households in the world.

So with a declining native birth rate, and the predominating single lifestyle, are the Johanssons really a good picture of the demographic average Swede? Admittedly, it is less of a selling point to show Muslim immigrants in Rosengård or Rinkeby.  But perhaps it would be more truthful to show how the majority of the Swedish population lives—not in small-town Växjö, apparently without any immigrants in sight, but in cities like Stockholm, Goteborg, and Malmö.

SI’s marketing of the imaginary “Johansson family” clearly doesn't take into consideration the immigrant ghettos of Stockholm and Malmö, Sweden's largest and third largest city respectively. Here, the “average Johanssons” are refugees and economic migrants from all over the world who crowd together in poor living conditions. Sweden’s Social Democratic immigration policies have failed to integrate these new immigrants and bring them up to the Swedish “Johansson” norms.

As a result, the average native Swede lives with the economic reality of an unassimilated Muslim immigrant population. Taxes paid by average Swedes go not only to pay for generous maternity and paternity leave and other social benefits, but also to support the burgeoning numbers of those largely unemployed poor immigrants. 

Another result of the Swedish government’s poor immigration policies is the ongoing unrest in immigrant communities—which often targets the Jewish citizens of these cities.  

It seems the government’s fantasy marketers at SI are so thrilled with the Johanssons that they just can’t see what’s really happening next door.

By Chanah Shapira

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