By: Christian Haag
May 10 2023
The Minister for Migration has cherry-picked data to make her claim.
In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt, Swedish Minister for Migration Maria Malmer Stenergard claimed that a majority of those now living in Sweden but originally born abroad do not earn their own living, which becomes burdensome for the welfare state and an issue for the individuals themselves. However, the claim is misleading.
Stenergard’s claim is misleading because the data comes from an older study that ended in 2016, not recent figures. The report does not include the aftermath of the 2015 Swedish migrant crisis nor the many active labor market policies implemented to help recent immigrants enter the Swedish job market.
The claim cites figures published by Entreprenörskapsforum (Entrepreneurship Forum), a research foundation providing research into entrepreneurship, innovation, and growth. In 2020, it mapped out economic integration by studying self-sufficiency rates among Swedes born overseas aged 20 to 65 between 1990 - 2016.
The report defined self-sufficiency as having an income meeting four “price base amounts,” a measurement that reflects the development of basic costs in Sweden and is used to calculate state fees and benefits. Income below the total price base amount is defined as not being enough for economic self-sufficiency, while an income lower than two of the price base amounts is roughly 50 percent of the median income in Sweden and meets the OECD definition of relative poverty. However, the study looked at all Swedes born abroad aged 20-65, including students, part-time workers, individuals on parental leave, and young adults living with their parents, among others.
According to Swedish Statistics (SCB), the central bureau for statistics in Sweden, there are approximately two million individuals living in Sweden that were born outside of Sweden. According to Stenergard’s claim, approximately one million Swedes born abroad depend on social benefits. However, SCB published statistics on March 23, 2023, showing that the total number of people in Sweden dependent on social benefits decreased to 700,000 people in 2022. These statistics also include people born in Sweden. Recent statistics have shown that the number of people in Sweden living on social benefits is the lowest since statistics began in the early 1990s. Stenergard’s claim uses old data, which is now inaccurate.
Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet wrote about the claim, citing SCB researcher Karin Lundström, who stated that there any many different ways of defining income by Swedes born abroad, but that none of their methods leads to the conclusion that a majority of Swedes born abroad can't support themselves.
Logically Facts also contacted Lundström, who told us that statistics on recent immigrant employment and income are affected by recent immigration numbers and how long immigrants have been in Sweden. Since 2016, employment and income have increased among Swedes born abroad. Lundström specifically pointed to updated data, stating that “in the report I worked on last autumn, where we calculated the proportion with incomes at different levels, we saw that the proportion with an income below 3 income base amounts has decreased during the 2000s, and also between 2016 and 2020, which was the last year for which we had income data.”
Considering that the report Stenergard refers to does not include important developments over the last seven years, we conclude that the minister has cherry-picked old data, meaning the claim is misleading.