Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Time again: Sweden in Newsweek...

So, it is time again: another major magazine is running an article about the Swedish model (thanks for letting me know, Challe). This time it is Newsweek that publishes a rather well written and accurate story (online here), even if it is too short and somewhat shallow. This article is not as positive as a Polly Toynbee hallelujah, but between the lines Sweden’s choice can be detected:

a) We fine-tune our model, knowing that real jobs, high and sustainable growth and top-class education all are key in order to enable us to get the tax money we need to pay for welfare (choice of a Fred Perry progressive).

b) We lower all the benefit levels in order to press down wages and force all the lazy immigrants living on welfare to take jobs they are now refusing to take. Sweden should also allow fewer refugees to entry the country, unless they managed to get the technology skills we need before they fled killing fields and/or starvation (choice of the Conservative party and Mr. Reinfeldt).

Do you think I am making alternative b) up? No, not at all, the quote below is from the Newsweek article:

”Reinfeldt argues, in particular, that the state encourages immigrants not to work with subsidies that exceed the pay in off-the-books jobs for cleaners, handymen or day laborers. He and other critics also say Sweden undermines its competitiveness by allowing entry more readily to refugees than to immigrants with technical skills that the economy needs.”

This quote is actually really scary, but it makes the political alternatives clear. I agree the Swedish model is far from perfect. But I think it stands on three important pillars: 1. Free trade and market economy (accepted by the Social Democratic party for some 80 years). 2. An understanding that unprofitable companies should be shut down, i.e. structural rationalization (accepted by the Trade Union movement for some 50 years). 3. An acceptance of pillar 1 and 2 because of the generosity of the welfare system (known today as the Swedish model; some people on the far-left tend to forget about the other pillars, especially pillar 1). This last pillar is very important today, as life long learning and frequent moves between jobs have become so important.

These three pillars are not mentioned in the article, even if you can detect a choice between the lines. Either we keep and fine-tune the model we have. Or you believe Reinfeldt’s nice rhetoric, forgiving that he slipped his tongue when he spoke about refugees, and wait for him to slash the benefit levels to 65 percent.

If that happens, I think the acceptance of pillar 1 and 2 will decrease. In that case, I think Reinfeldt’s brownish statement about immigrants and refugees will resonate better, unfortunately, among unemployed workers on a 65 percent benefit. When the workers are in a more exposed situation themselves, they will probably feel more hostile vis-à-vis stuff like globalization, free trade and immigration; three positive things we need badly.

I did not expect Newsweek to finish this whole line of thought as I am doing, but think again. Globalization is not losing pace, but Sweden is still doing fine. Fine-tune our model and keep the levels in the welfare system? Yes. Lower pillar three towards Anglo-Saxon levels, risking the acceptance for free trade and structural rationalization? No. Thanks, Newsweek, for making me think and write about the future of Sweden’s famous model again.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

, but Sweden is still doing fine.

Fine? Developing racism as usual

40 000 similar stories of first generation immigrants – high educated and no job, than much more, thousand stories of second isolated generation, much much much more, thousands similar stories of third generation isolated immigrants. Hello how can somebody count third generation as immigrants? Yes it cans SSwedes.

They will remind you that you are foreigner in your entire life if You allow that.

In SSweden you will be remind all the time that you are third class person. Second class is dogs.

SSwedish rasist nation not need Einsteins, they need slaves.

Racist are: SSwedish politician who support all isolation ant pressure against immigrants, journalists who write only negative articles for immigrants and company leaders who generally employ incompetent SSwede than foreign Einstein. Last one can cause trouble for theirs incompetence.

8/1/06 11:34  
Anonymous Jon Worth said...

It's about the normal standard for articles about Sweden not written for Swedes... The usual acceptance of the good points, and the typical tired old arguments about 'hidden employment' which all developed countries have anyway. The flip side of a (possibly) decreasing labour force participation is the highest participation of women in the labour force in any European country.

Further, the fact that everyone goes on about this unemployment point shows how decent everything else is in Sweden! If that's the major criticism Newsweek (or Reinfeldt) can come up with, I think plenty of things are functioning quite well!

8/1/06 22:57  

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