As the Swedes go to the polls in September 2018, divisions between left-wing coalition partners are becoming visible, especially on migration policy.
On Tuesday the Social Democrats announced their intention to pass a law that would link eligibility to social benefits with proficiency in Swedish. The law would apply for asylum seekers and immigrants. Moreover, the government would be able to stop benefits to newcomers that do not take the offer of Swedish language tuition.
The announcement comes a week after the Social Democrats announced an overall “tightening” of the so-called “too-liberal” immigration regime in Sweden. In a joint press conference, prime minister Stefan Löfven and labour market minister Ylva Johansson announced an electoral platform that will include an overhaul of non-EU migration.
Their emphasis was on skills, with prime minister Löfven making the case that Sweden cannot continue to welcome low-skilled migration that is adding to the ranks of the unemployed. Swedish unemployment currently stands to just under 6,5%, but low-skilled newly arrived migrants are overrepresented in their ranks in the country that since 2015 welcomed more asylum seekers per capita than any other in the EU.
The Social Democrats are now clearly advocating for a skill-driven migration regime, for those coming to Sweden from outside the EU.
The Green Party is the governments’ junior coalition partner, an alliance that has lasted since 2008. However, they reject the Social Democratic platform on migration, indicating differentiation tactics as campaigning for September’s legislative elections is well underway.
Paradoxically, it was the Swedish centre-right leader Annie Lööf of the Centre Party that first criticized prime minister Löfven for building on the fear that immigrants are taking up “Swedish jobs.” “Labour force immigration is 0.3% of employment in Sweden. It’s absurd that they say that this is a threat.” Lööf told the TT news agency.