How immigration is fuelling Sweden's economic boom

Leading economist says Scandinavian nation's experience shows UK Government should reverse plans to tighten immigration

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The Independent Online

Immigration has helped fuel Sweden's biggest economic boom in five years, new figures have revealed.

The Swedish government, whose policies saw the country take in more refugees per capita than any other in Europe last year, helped lower unemployment rates by increased spending on welfare for asylum seekers from war torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The move helped the Nordic region's largest economy expand 4.5 percent on an annual basis in the fourth quarter of 2015, the most in almost five years and more than twice the growth of Germany, according to Bloomberg.

Increased consumer spending and borrowing and high house prices also contributed to the boom which, although projected to fade, has consolidated Sweden as one of Europe's success stories.

National Institute of Economic and Social Research fellow Jonathan Portes said economies benefitted from more workers, but emphasised the difference between immigrants and refugees.

"What the Swedish experience tells us is that even in the short term, even when you have a very large influx of refugees, there is a perception this is an impossible burden on the state," he told The Independent.

"But in the short term it increases growth."

He said the Swedish government needed to have a long-term strategy to successfully integrate refugees and continue the growth.

But the news came as Theresa May's government announced plans to curb immigration and the number of skilled migrant workers entering the UK - policies Mr Portes said should be reversed because they will reduce economic growth.

"The Government has just announced policies which their own economists have said will reduce productivity and will reduce exports," he said.

"That is the last thing that the economy needs.

"The Government perceives that it is important to reduce immigration, even if that reduction in immigration reduces economic growth.

"Migrants benefit the UK economy already but the Government wants to reduce migration, even if it means harming the economy.

"If anyone was in a position to think about how to improve things, they would reverse these policy announcements. They are entirely negative for the UK economy."

Conservative Party plans to slow immigration and could compel firms employing from abroad to use tests to ensure foreign workers do not take jobs “British people could do”.

Businesses may even be 'named and shamed' by being forced to publish what proportion of their workforce comes from overseas.

Foreigners looking for work driving taxis could be faced with mandatory immigration checks and overseas students will also be hit by much tougher rules.

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