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Sweden: 21 billion SEK earmarked for integration efforts for newly arrived immigrants in the 2016 state budget

The Swedish government proposes that 21 billion SEK (2,25 billion Euro) shall be earmarked for integration efforts for newly arrived immigrants in the 2016 state budget. That is an increase of five billion compared to 2015. The higher allocation is due to the increased spending on economic compensation to municipalities and on introduction benefits. For 2017, the estimated expenditure is 28 billion and 31 billion in 2018.

The reason for the increase in expenditure is mainly that more people will be given asylum and thus be entitled to an introduction program. In 2014, 45,836 persons were settled in the municipalities. Of these, 3,370 were unaccompanied minors. Compared to 2013, it is an increase of 12,000. Expenditures for Migration is estimated at 19 billion in 2016, an increase of two billion compared to last year.

After the budget presentation, many newspaper editorials commented on that the government deliberately underestimates the expenditures for migration and integration. The Government's assessment of the migration and integration costs is based on an outdated prognosis from 21 July where the scenario was 73,000 asylum seekers in 2016. Now, the Migration Board calculates the number to be around 90,000, an increase of around 20 percent, which will draw up the cost.

Finance Minister Andersson said that eventual additional costs will be covered by using more of the aid budget. To cover the costs of asylum seekers with the aid budget has previously been criticised by the government coalition partner, the Green Party and the Left Party: the poorest will pay for the Swedish asylum reception, commented Hans Linde from the Left Party.

The government´s prognosis is that the number of asylum seekers and family immigration will remain high in the coming years. This will make the stated goal to have the EU's lowest unemployment rate in 2020 more difficult to reach, said the Social Democratic finance minister Magdalena Andersson.

We invest a lot to improve the introduction programs in order to take advantage of the skills those granted asylum bring to Sweden. It's about speeding up the process to get their first job. Therefore, we are focusing resources on a fast track system in a number of occupations where there are labor shortages. We also invest heavily in validation efforts and complementary education and training, said Andersson.

The integration budget received criticism from the center-right parties for lacking measures to support the lower skilled immigrants. The main problem in the Swedish labour market is those who are fleeing from other countries and have low education. We need a larger wage flexibility, we need lower taxes on work, and we need less strict labour market regulations. Instead, we see a budget that creates fewer low-skilled jobs by, for example, reducing tax deductions for low-skilled service jobs, said Erik Ullenhag (Liberal Party).

It is worth noting that the Swedish Government does not propose any measures to try to reduce the number of asylum seekers. At the budget presentation, the finance minister instead emphasised the need of a shared responsibility for the refugee situation, both between EU countries and between municipalities.

Read more here and here

The state budget 2016 is available here