Keeping Denmark's door shut

The government's anti-immigration policies are being used as evidence of the country saving money

Keeping the door shut

Marc Mueller/EPA/Keystone Press

A recent Danish report has provoked an uncomfortable debate about the economics of immigration. The report, based on data from five Danish ministries, indicates that the country saved $9.5 billion in housing and social assistance over the last decade by restricting immigrants from non-Western nations. By contrast, immigrants from Western countries were found to have contributed to the economy.

Denmark’s right-wing government and its allied parties have seized on the new information as validation of their anti-immigration agendas. Some politicians have suggested that the savings are, in fact, greater, once health and police expenditures are taken into account. And there are even calls to further clamp down on newcomers who “one can suspect will be a burden on Denmark,” as Søren Pind, the centre-right liberal integration minister, put it in a Danish newspaper.

But the country’s opposition parties see it differently: they say that the six per cent of Denmark’s population who are immigrants from outside the EU (totalling approximately 320,000 people) are being used as the “whipping boys” for Denmark’s $8.7-billion deficit. Marianne Jelved, spokesperson for the centre-left Social-Liberal Party, has called classifying people “depending on their value to the economy” nothing short of “degrading” and undemocratic.

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