The election campaign in Sweden is once again highlighting the growing controversy over migration. This morning, in a televised interview the head of the Sweden Democrats Party stated that the two foremost preoccupations of the Party are immigration and the care of the elderly. In the case of immigration, the idea is to do everything possible to curtail it, and in the case of the elderly, the aim is presumably to increase and make more efficient their care.
The link between these two aims may have been lost on the Sweden Democrats Party. Care of the elderly is becoming more precarious throughout much of the European region for a variety of reasons. First of all, the number of people moving in to the category typically referred to as the elderly, is growing, and doing so far more rapidly than health planners ever thought likely. The needs they are presenting with are also more complex than many people have previously thought likely. The paradox that Sweden and other European countries face, however, is that the cost of an increasingly elderly population is growing exponentially. More elderly people means that more people are living longer, and hence, contributing to the demand on national pension schemes. This changing profile of the elderly, of European demographics, and the costs of care, is emerging against a backdrop of falling birth rates and smaller numbers of people available to join the workforce, pay taxes, and contribute to social security and pension schemes. There are no two ways about this dilemma. Unless European countries can replenish their populations through massive migration, Europe’s pension schemes will come to abrupt and disastrous ends. Cutting back migration could be catastrophic for Europe, Europe’s elderly of today, and even more so, for Europe’s elderly of tomorrow.
There is of course another reason why cutting back on migration will harm the elderly. Caring for elderly people is neither easy, nor necessarily attractive. Not many people go into this type of work, and throughout much of Europe, this has become a domain in which migrants have contributed immensely. Care of the elderly has become dependent on a labour force that is often foreign-born, and that comes from countries where caring for the elderly still remains an integral and natural part of life.
The Sweden Democrats Party is right to highlight the need for care of the elderly to become more consistent, efficient, and effective. The decision by them to highlight and promote a restriction of immigration would simply make all its aims for the elderly unachievable.
- Factbox: Anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party (reuters.com)
- FACTBOX-Anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party (reuters.com)
- Swedish far-right leader: Success due to immigration backlash (cnn.com)
- Q&A: Why does Sweden’s election result matter? (cnn.com)
- Swedish election too close to call (time.com)
- The summing up of the Swedish election campaign (Cavatus’s Blog)