Sweden welcomed more than 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, including nearly 40,000 in October of that year alone. For a country of fewer than 10 million, this was almost equal to 2 percent of the population — in one year. The flow doubled the number of asylum-seekers at the height of the Balkans crisis in 1992.
The foreign-born proportion of the Swedish population was 18 percent in 2016, double that of 1990. As of 2015, the most common county of origin for the foreign-born was Finland, which makes sense as it is a neighboring Scandinavian country. Next are Iraq and Syria.
Predictably, it isn’t easy to integrate people who don’t know the language, aren’t highly skilled, and come from a foreign culture. Sweden’s economic policies don’t help. As a report of the Migration Policy Institute put it politely, Sweden is “an interesting case” because “the state is committed to fostering large-scale immigration despite huge integration challenges in the labor market.”
There is a stark gap in the labor-force-participation rate between the native born (82 percent) and the foreign born (57 percent). As the Migration Policy Institute points out, Sweden is an advanced economy with relatively few low-skills jobs to begin with. On top of this, high minimum wages and stringent labor protections make it harder for marginal workers to find employment, while social assistance discourages the unemployed from getting work.
None of this is a formula for assimilation or social tranquility.