Denmark debates the cost of immigrants

Published on 2 May 2011 at 13:36

The controversy has been stirring Denmark for some days. “The economists behind the report on the cost of immigration oppose the government,”writes Information, accusing the government and its majority of exploiting the economists’ work for political ends. Drawn up at the government’s request, their report is now being used by the Danish People’s Party — the far-right party supporting the Liberal-Conservative majority in parliament — and the integration minister to call for further restrictions on immigration. Denmark is already applying the most restrictive immigration laws in Europe.

The conservative daily Jyllands-Posten revealed this report on April 28 under the headline “Restrictions on foreigners saves billions”. According to the liberal daily, the annual cost to Danish society of non-Western immigrants is put at 15.7 billion kroner (2.1 billion euros), and since the right came to power in 2001 the kingdom has saved 5.1 billion kroner (nearly 684 million euros) every year.

In Information, the economists deny this interpretation of their report, explaining that it cannot be known how non-Western immigrants affect the economy of the kingdom. While the figures are correct, the economists explain, they do not capture the cost of immigrants. For example, their study does not distinguish between refugees and immigrants whose situations and journey to Denmark differ. And as the proportion of children and youth is higher among immigrants than in Danish society in general, immigrants do currently contribute far less than others in society through taxes, but that will probably change over time. That is why, says Marianne Frank Hansen, one of the leaders of the group of economists behind the report, calling for tougher immigration law “is a somewhat exaggerated conclusion to be drawn from the report.”

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