Progress Party heavyweight Per Willy Amundsen has created a stir with his proposal to cut child benefits for immigrant families in order to bring down the number of births among Somalis and other population groups with many children.
"My wish is that we have a population composition that is sustainable. Ethnic Norwegians have a falling birth curve. But the solution is not to get an even larger immigrant population, on the contrary, we must ensure that the ethnic Norwegian population is maintained", Amundsen explained his stance to TV2.
The former justice minister and current member of the party's immigration committee voiced opposition to the Christian Democrats' plan to up child benefits for all children regardless of their origin.
"I am very concerned that an increase in child benefits doesn't become a hinder for integration. It will, though, if you reward immigrant parents who have four, five or six children", Amundsen explained.
Instead, Amundsen proposed stopping child benefits completely starting after the fourth child, pointing out the fact that immigrants tend to have larger families than ethnic Norwegians and are thus the foremost beneficiaries. According to Amundsen, this especially applies to Somalis, who have a superior birth rate. A 2009 survey indicated that women with a Somali background aged 35-49 have an average of 3.81 children, more that double the overall birth rate in Norway.
"When with the highest fertility rate are non-western immigrants, then one must adapt the child benefits accordingly", Amundsen assured.
Amundsen's proposal spurred strong reactions among fellow politicians. Christian Democrats parliamentary spokesman Geir Jørgen Bekkevold argued that Amundsen's methods were reminiscent of "race-based politics", while several Conservatives, Progress party's senior government allies, said it was "unacceptable" to use ethnicity in welfare schemes. Per Anders Langerød of the Labour Party called Amundsen's proposal "pure racism" in an opinion piece.
By contrast, fellow Progress Party MP Himanshu Gulati defended Amundsen, stating that there should be no taboo on discussing demographic changes. He also stressed that many are in favour of scrapping cash support as a hinder toward integration.
Per Willy Amundsen previously penned a column in one of Norway's leading dailies, Aftenposten, advocating to stop immigration from Muslim countries.
Despite continuous immigration over the past several decades, Norway's fertility rates have been steadily falling in recent years. In 2009, the Norwegian fertility rate was 1.98, almost level with 2.1 births per woman, which is necessary for a country to reproduce without help from abroad. In less than a decade, though, the fertility rate has plummeted to 1.62.
As a token of how severe the situation is, Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg expressed worry in her New Year speech about too few children being born in her country. In 2017, only 56,600 children were born in Norway, a nation of 5.2 million. In 2017, Norway's immigrant population made up about 17% of the country's total population.
Currently, all children living in Norway are entitled to child benefits from birth until they are 18 years old. As of today, the monthly benefit per child is NOK 1,054 ($123).