Their economy is growing 4.5 percent this year and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since the financial crisis yet Swedes are acting “as if everything is going in the wrong direction,” complains their prime minister, Stefan Löfven.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the Social Democrat insists that “all the numbers are going in the right direction, but the picture the public have is that the country is now going in the wrong direction.”
Recent surveys put his party and its left-wing allies almost 5 percentage points behind the right-wing opposition.
Löfven is convinced this is because “everything has been overshadowed” by the migrant crisis.
The Nordic country of 9.6 million admitted 163,000 asylum seekers last year, making it, along with Germany, the highest recipient of migrants relative to its population in Europe.
Long welcoming of foreigners, the record influx last year threatened to overwhelm Sweden’s asylum authorities and its welfare system.
Löfven’s government toned down provisions for newcomers while neighboring Denmark reinstated border controls across the Øresund. The combined measures appear to have reduced the inflow of asylum seekers.
The focus in Swedish politics is now turning to integration, the Financial Times reports.
Foreigners are 2.6 times more likely to be out of work than natives. After ten years in Sweden, only half have a job.
Right-wing parties have proposed lowering the minimum wage to make it easier for unskilled migrants to find work.
Löfven, a former trade union leader, wants migrants to start learning Swedish while they wait for their claims to be processed and employers to accept overseas qualifications.