Successful integration is the key to (Nordic) success

Many perceive refugees and immigrants as a cost and sometimes also a social burden. But it’s vital that we look at the situation with open minds.

The latest issue of Nordic Economic Policy Review (NEPR) was presented a few weeks ago right here at Nordic House in Copenhagen. Several writers highlight how refugees can actually help to keep our society going.

With an aging population and the depopulation of rural areas, many Nordic municipalities are facing major challenges. As schools and kindergartens close, it becomes increasingly difficult to encourage the young people who moved away from rural areas to study, for instance, to come back. Small municipalities struggle to maintain good services without an adequate population base. In several Nordic rural municipalities, refugees who have been placed there have chosen to stay and establish themselves, and so buck the population trend. A condition of success is that skills are matched with jobs in the relevant labour market - not always an easy task, it has to be said. In fact, 26% of municipalities in the Nordic Region are growing only thanks to inward migration.  By getting new inhabitants into work more quickly, we can reduce the cost of refugee migration considerably.  NEPR’s studies have been produced by prominent Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish economists. They show that although we’re pretty good at integrating refugees into the Nordic labour markets, we still have a lot to do if we’re to bring refugee employment rates to the same level as Nordic nationals, as well as to improve their long-term employment prospects. Refugees are among those who are most exposed to arduous and insecure employment. During times of economic downturn, it’s usually those with temporary jobs who are the first to go.  So how can we overcome these obstacles? As a starting point, we can continue to learn from one another and look at what works in each others’ countries. What works in Denmark may well work in Sweden and vice versa.

Refugees are among those who are most exposed to arduous and insecure employment. During times of economic downturn, it’s usually those with temporary jobs who are the first to go. So how can we overcome these obstacles? As a starting point, we can continue to learn from one another and look at what works in each others’ countries. What works in Denmark may well work in Sweden and vice versa.

NEPR also estimates the cost of refugee immigration. Writer and economist Joakim Ruist wants to establish a debate based more on facts, and to make us realise that the “bill” doesn’t pose a threat to our Nordic welfare societies. He points out that costs begin to fall once refugees start working and paying tax. 80% of the cost is down to lost tax revenues through unemployment.   Several current projects and programmes within Nordic co-operation currently prioritise the integration and inclusion of newly-arrived immigrations, and how we can learn from one another in order to do even better.  Last year the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation adopted a comprehensive co-operation programme for integration. The programme is an initiative that brings together relevant national and local stakeholders, NGOs, and others involved with integration projects in the Nordic Region in order to share our knowledge and what we’ve learned. The goal is to support efforts that promote the integration of refugees and immigrants - women, men, children, and young people - as well as to facilitate co-operation between the Nordic countries on integration. More information about the programme, current statistics and research, specific examples to learn from, and interviews with refugees can be found at the new website.

I urge anyone who is interested in getting involved or applying for funding to do so!

We have a shared responsibility for inclusion and integration. In the same way as Nordic co-operation, this is based on much more than just plans and programmes

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