Are more immigrants on welfare?

Minister’s statements problematic, research says

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

Progress’s (FrP) Minister of Labor and Social Affairs declared to reporters that figures for social benefits recipient numbers “are the highest since 2005”—125,400—with “far too many immigrants on welfare.”

“37 percent of [those receiving social benefits] are immigrants,” he continued, calling for action due to what he termed as “a major overrepresentation.”

Predicting that the number of immigrants on benefits will increase if nothing is done, he proposes improved qualification procedures. These include better Norwegian language training and more stringent demands.

“We must be able to set clearer expectations and demands for access to our welfare programs,” stated the Minister, adding that he recognizes the challenges immigrants face when applying for jobs.

SSB social assistance researcher Harald Tønseth tells The Foreigner that Labor and Social Affairs Minister Robert Eriksson’s comments are not unproblematic, as “any comments on the level of social assistance must take into account a slight change in data publication from 2013 onwards.”

“Before 2013, immigrants and Norwegian-born to immigrant parents were published as one group of recipients,” he says.

At the same time, data before and after 2013 is comparable, “that taken into account,” states Tønseth.

2014’s social assistance levels for all recipients were up four percent on the previous year, with payments six percent higher when controlled for the general price increase, according to Statistics Norway (SSB).

The past three years have seen a continual half a percentage point increase in numbers of people receiving social assistance, with this scheme being a main source of income. The trend follows a downward one between 2006 and 2011.

Levels of payments are linked to the size of municipalities, “reflecting differences in the cost of living,” it is stated. “Recipients in cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants received payments almost twice the amount of recipients in the smallest municipalities (less than 5,000 inhabitants).”

Immigrants of all ages received social assistance in 2013 and 2014, with the respective numbers for these years being some 42,900 and 46,600.

Roughly 1,300 (2013) and 1,400 (2014) recipients were classified as Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, with the unknown immigration category consisting of approximately 920 a year.

The respective figures for the rest of the population for 2013 and 2014 are some 75,640 and 76,470.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Aug. 28, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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