Welfare state and immigration: Non European nationals as second class citizens?
The Norwegian welfare model is, in the Welfare and Migration report, defined as dependent on high level of participation in employment and a relatively equal distribution of income in order to keep a generous and universal supply of welfare to all citizens. Immigration, according to the rapport, can contribute to the labour market with proficiency, labour and innovation, and can therefore be strengthening the welfare state. However, if the immigrants are not gainfully employed, they will become a double loss for the Norwegian state with increased welfare expenses and reduced tax incomes. As a result, migration would not be profitable for the Norwegian economy. Therefore, the Welfare and Migration Committee recommends active integration of migrants within the workplaces in order to rescue the welfare state. The committee also proposes that the various economic benefits such as child welfare allowance to the immigrant communities could be converted into the provision of employment or qualification programmes which can result in creating job participation. It means in practice that if the immigrant women are unemployed, they would not be qualified for welfare allowances like their ethnic Norwegian sisters.
The MiRA Centre considers the rapport to focus on several important challenges facing the welfare state in relation to migration. We are however, sceptical to some of the recommendations which portray immigrants who become unemployed due to various factors among them discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion and the colour of skin, as a burden to the welfare state. The report states the importance of labour migration for the Norwegian economy and how essential it is to maintain the welfare state, but it underlines the fact that if all the immigrants are given equal rights as citizens, the welfare state might not survive.
The committee suggests that active integration policies are necessary in order to get immigrants into the labour market. However, the MiRA-Centre views with concern the rapports portrayal of immigrant women. Important challenges related to immigrant women and employment are highlighted, but few solutions are presented. The solutions that are suggested are conditional and often restrict the equal rights of these women. For example, it is suggested that immigrants have to complete a compulsory Norwegian course in order to get transitional benefits if divorced. All Norwegian women have the right to transitional benefits, and we find it worrying and unintelligible if this right should be conditioned for immigrant women.
We are also concerned about the report’s rendering of the economic benefits as a lucrative alternative to work. We find this viewpoint degrading for the immigrant communities, as our experience rather tells that many immigrant women want to work, but are met with discriminatory attitudes and are not even called for a job interview. Lately, we have also experienced that many women who get internships through the institution of Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service, do not get employed after ended practice.
The MiRA Centre has recommended to the immigration authorities that it is important to offer the Norwegian language courses and employment guidance to all women upon their arrival to Norway. Fakhra Salimi, director of the MiRA-Centre, also emphasises the different treatment between immigrants from EEA countries and immigrants from what the rapport refers to as “third countries”. It is easier for EEA citizens to get family immigration and they receive most of the civil rights which the Norwegian citizens have but immigrants from the African, Asian, Central and South American countries are denied those equal rights. Should Norwegian immigration politics be formed in a way that makes third country citizens second class citizens in Norway? Questions Fakhra Salimi!