09:39 GMT +311 December 2019
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    Policemen and a group of migrants stand on the platform at the Swedish end of the bridge between Sweden and Denmark in Malmo, Sweden

    'Population is Changing': Migrant-Heavy Swedish Municipality in Crisis, as Taxpayer Numbers Plummet

    © AFP 2019 / TT NEWS AGENCY / STIG-AKE JONSSON
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    The municipality of Filipstad is facing an economic crisis amid an influx of low-skilled immigrants, who rely on benefits, exacerbated by an exodus of able-bodied Swedes. According to the municipality, at least 80 percent of its non-European migrants are unemployed and live on welfare.

    Following the migrant crisis of 2015, the Swedish municipality of Filipstad has been facing an “increasingly desperate” labour situation and has over SEK 31 million ($3.2 million) to pay in various benefits this year alone, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.

    Between 2012 and 2018, the number of domestic-born residents in the municipality decreased by 640 people, while the number of foreign-born residents increased by 963 people. "Statistics also show that domestic-born people of working age (20-64 years), who account for the largest tax revenues to the municipality, choose to leave", says SVT. 

    “We are in the process of a population shift. You can think what you want, it depends on your standpoint, but it's just a fact we have to relate to”, Filipstad integration manager Jim Frölander said.

    While domestic-born people of working age are leaving the municipality in droves, unemployment among the foreign-born is soaring, as they turn out to be ill-equipped to qualify for the existing jobs. The municipality estimates that at least 80 per cent of its non-European migrants are unemployed and live on benefits.

    “Around 750 adults from Syria, Somalia, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iraq live in Filipstad. <...> In this group, unemployment and dependency are very high, while education levels are very low. This group runs the risk of eternal alienation that is already heavily burdening the municipal economy”, the head of municipality Claes Hultgren said.

    According to Hultgren, many of the newcomers lack the prerequisites for ever entering the Swedish labour market.

    “Some are too old maybe and even illiterate or have a very low educational level. We must then accept that there will be some people who will need the support of society for their livelihoods”, Hultgren explained.

    Municipal Council Per Gruvberger of the ruling Social Democrat party demanded that the state steps in and assumes its responsibility for the human-made crisis.

    “Resources and a national equalisation are needed to fulfil this mission, which arose because of the way we organised our asylum system over a certain period”, Gruvberger explained.

    Civilian Minister Ardalan Shekarabi promised state support to Filipstad.

    “Sweden has no problems that we cannot solve if we help”, Shekarabi said.

    On social media, many were critical of the situation and how the authorities have handled it.

    “Unfortunately, rocket scientists and brain surgeons did not choose Filipstad”, a user lamented.

    ​“Apparently, there is no demand for illiteracy in one of the world's most modern knowledge-based societies, which at the same time has one of the world's highest tax rates on labour and one of the highest thresholds for the labour market”, Fredrik Stålmarker of the Citizens' Coalition party tweeted.

    ​Many gleefully cited a 2015 piece by SVT, which claimed that “thousands of engineers, doctors and economists” were fleeing to Sweden amid the migrant crisis.

    “Why did the low-skilled choose just Filipstad? Must be something wrong with the town”, a user commented sarcastically, quoting SVT's promises of a “rain of competence” over Sweden.

    ​Sweden has currently one of the EU member states' most generous immigration policies, having taken in over 200,000 asylum seekers since the 2015 migrant crisis alone.

    As of today, about a quarter of the Swedish population of 10 million has an immigrant background. The largest communities of non-Swedish descent include people from the former Yugoslavia, Syria, Finland, Iraq, Somalia, Iraq, and Poland.

    According to various prognoses, ethnic Swedes will become a minority in their own country at some point during this century.

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