Exasperated with integrating and catering to immigrants in the aftermath of the refugee crisis, the Nordic countries, which are renowned for their welfare programs, are looking forward to pushing through major cuts in migrant benefits.
Norway's Labor and Social Affairs Minister Anniken Hauglie came up with a number of proposals for cutbacks in welfare benefits for refugees, following last year's unprecedented influx of asylum-seekers. Norway is pondering abolishing special privileges for refugees and imposing residence requirements.
"It should pay to work. We want people to be able to support themselves," Hauglie explained to Norwegian national broadcaster NRK regarding the proposed measures.
At present, Norway offers several special arrangements to refugees, who are automatically enrolled in the National Insurance System from day one. Migrants are therefore entitled to a basic pension and other security benefits right away, whereas Norwegians have to be employed for 40 years before they are eligible for a full basic pension.
According to the proposed changes, the two most significant prerogatives, retirement and disability benefits, will be replaced with a trial scheme based on residence requirements. Supplementary benefits to families will be granted on a means-tested basis, which includes spouses, cohabitants and registered partners. Benefits will be forfeited if the beneficiary stays more than 45 days outside Norway.
The changes are expected to result in major savings, yet the exact gain remains unclear as it depends on several factors. Generally speaking, Oslo hopes to save up around 200 million kroner (roughly 24 million USD) during the first year alone. However, the proposed system will only become fully effective towards 2060, and then the savings are expected to reach 5.6 billion kroner (670 million USD) a year. However, Hauglie could not guarantee that municipalities won't suffer from additional expenses to boot as a result of the austerity measures.
Remarkably, Norway is not alone in its desire to tighten welfare benefits. Last week, the Danish government halved the financial support it offers thousands of refugees in order to prompt them to consider getting a job. Family support will therefore be slashed from today's 29,000 kroner (roughly 4,500 USD) to 15,000 kroner (roughly 2,300 USD) per month. A single refugee will thus receive under 6,000 kroner (roughly 900 USD). According to human rights watchdogs, this measure will get around 45,000 to live on a minimum of subsistence, NRK reported.
In 2015, Europe saw perhaps the greatest influx of refugees in modern times. Over 31,000 refugees arrived in Norway, whereas Denmark took in over 21,000 asylum-seekers. Sweden remained last year's leader in arrivals per capita, with over 163,000 asylum-seekers in a country of less than 10 million.
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