Time again: Sweden in Newsweek...
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.