Posted on September 26, 2021

Immigrants Grab Over Half of Norway’s Social Benefits Amid Ballooning Costs

Igor Kuznetsov, Sputnik, September 13, 2021

Within a single decade, the number of Norwegian municipalities that spend more than half of their social assistance budget on people with an immigrant background has grown from 17 to 123. At the same time, the amount of social assistance paid to the same demographic has more than doubled, reaching $460 million.

While fewer than 1 in 5 of Norway’s inhabitants (about 17 percent) have an immigrant background, they now receive well over half (58 percent) of all the social financial assistance available in the country, new statistics have indicated.

On behalf of the national-conservative Progress Party, Statistics Norway has taken a closer look at the use of social benefits in Norwegian municipalities over the period 2009-2019. This includes all means of temporary support given to people unable to provide for their own subsistence.

Over the ten-year stretch, the number of welfare recipients with an immigrant background has increased over 70 percent, while recipients among the general population have become fewer. This coincided with a period of record-high immigration, including the 2015 migrant crisis, the newspaper Nettavisen reported.

In 2009, just over NOK 1.8 billion ($210 million) in social assistance was paid to people with an immigrant background. Ten years later, the number had more than doubled to NOK 4 billion ($460 million). This means that people with an immigrant background account for almost the entire increase in social assistance budgets across Norwegian municipalities.

In 2009, barely 17 municipalities in Norway spent more than half of their social assistance budget on people with an immigrant background. By 2019, this number had exploded to 123 municipalities. In Vik municipality in Western Norway, immigrants receive a record 89 percent of the available social assistance. In Oslo, three quarters of the social help (75 percent) goes to immigrants.

Vik municipality Councillor Øistein Søvik singled out a lower level of education as a common factor for receiving social benefits.

Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation (NAV) department director Jan Erik Grundtjernlien emphasised the role of the refugee crisis that led to unprecedented number of immigrants to Norway (over 31,000 asylum seekers in 2015), as well as the need for long-term qualifications in order to enter the labour market. Lastly, Grundtjernlien also stressed “greater challenges” faced by immigrants and their descendants, including increasingly stringent job requirements at the national level.

Former Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug, who chairs the Progress Party that ordered the survey, argued that increased immigration will lead to increased poverty.

“The Labour Party and the left-wing radical socialists keep talking about social differences, but they refuse to relate to reality. The truth is that increased immigration means increased poverty. It doesn’t help how many pillows you give out to people. Ultimately, people need to get to work,” Listhaug maintaied to Nettavisen.

The former cabinet minister voiced her fear that the left-of-the-centre “red” bloc tipped to win today’s general election will open the borders, whereupon “poverty will hit the ceiling”.

Citing a “budding asylum wave from Afghanistan”, Listhaug suggested prioritising local help to people in the immediate area as alternative to immigration, which she argued, leads to “major integration problems”.

“We can help 468 fellow human beings in the surrounding areas for the same amount as it costs to bring a single refugee to Norway”, she added.

Norway’s immigrant-background population began to accelerate starting from 2006, having more than doubled since then and nearly reaching 1 million in a country of 5.3 million by 2020. The Norwegian government defines “Immigrants” as people who have immigrated to Norway themselves, and whose parents were both born abroad. The terms “immigrant population” and “immigrant background”, by contrast, include their first- and second-generation descendants as well.