For many years Sweden has had an open door policy to immigrants and refugees from all nations. In 1991, the country admitted 20,000 asylum seekers, and in 1992, an additional 80,000 of them were admitted. Many of them were former Yugoslavians. The refugee-processing system can take as long as 18 months. Meanwhile, asylum-seekers are fed, clothes, housed, and given medical care by the state.
The costs of refugee programs--now up to about $35 to $57 per person--are forcing Swedes to question their liberal impulses. Even in good economic times, the system would have staggered under so many people. Currently, the Swedish economy has been slowing down since 1990. Increasingly, the country's world-renowned social welfare system is having trouble providing for its own citizens.
The Swedes have a history of being tolerant toward immigrants. However, judging from a recent opinion poll, those attitudes are changing. According to the poll, 66 percent of the respondents disapproved of Swedish immigration policies, saying they cost too much and encouraged "the wrong people to come." This is because at least 45 percent of the non-Nordic immigrants are unemployed. Centers built to house immigrants are overcrowded--and the welfare system cannot afford to build more shelters.
The Swedish welfare system has always been regarded as a "Third Way" between capitalism and communism. This third way meant giving private firms free rein, taxing earnings hard, and administering welfare through hordes of public employees. It also was meant to provide everyone with a high standard of living, health care, sick leave, child leave, and unemployment benefits at 90 percent of salary, and a moral foreign policy. Unemployment was kept low because governments, in partnership with powerful trade unions, bossed the unemployed into retraining for whatever jobs could be found--which was mostly in the public sector. To many outsiders, this wa...