Nordic countries show the way on immigration

My email inbox was hit with the following advertisement from The Australia Institute promoting a new book imploring Australia to copy the Nordic nations on policy:

The Australia Institute’s Nordic Policy Centre is delighted to announce a new book The Nordic Edge: Policy Possibilities for Australia, edited by Andrew Scott and Rod Campbell, published by Melbourne University Press and featuring chapters written by a number of Australia Institute staff.

Climate and energy. Work/life balance. Mining taxes. Progress on policy issues like these is essential and yet they have become subject to the most rancorous partisanship in Australia.

Progress can seem impossible.

Yet Nordic countries have taken a ‘ja, we can’ approach to these and other issues such as independent foreign policy, prison reform, gender equality, retraining for workforce participation and media diversity.

The Nordic Edge explores policies adopted by Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland and the exciting possibilities they provide to overcome Australia’s seemingly intractable problems.

The Nordic experience shows that progress in these areas is not only possible, but can be achieved while increasing prosperity and community wellbeing.

The Nordic Edge feature chapters from leading Australian and Nordic thinkers and policy practitioners, including Sweden’s recent Foreign Minister, which outline proven approaches to help Australia become a fairer, happier, wealthier and more environmentally responsible country.

Contributors include: former Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Dr Richard Denniss, Dr Lenita Freidenvall, Professor Marian Sawer, James Fleming, Dr Maria Rae, Associate Professor Anna Eriksson, as well as a number of Australia Institute staff, with a foreword by Ben Oquist.

I obviously have not read the book and do not know its contents other than what is listed above.

Curiously, the blurb makes no mention of the Nordic nations’ relatively stable populations. It is true that Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway are renowned as being among the wealthiest, happiest, best functioning nations in the world. They also have the highest living standards.

It is also true that they achieved all this success without resorting to mass immigration-driven population growth:

Population growth

Australia’s population growth has dwarfed the Nordic nations.

Since 1960, these Nordic nation’s have grown their populations by around 25% – a fraction of the 150% growth experienced by Australia over the same period. One of these nations (Norway) is also a commodity economy, like Australia.

For example, in 1960 Sweden had a population of just under 8 million, only 2.4 million less than Australia’s. By 2019, Australia’s population had grown by around 15 million to 25 million, whereas Sweden’s had only grown by around 2 million people to 10.1 million.

Australia should indeed seek to emulate the Nordic countries by focusing on improving productivity and living standards instead of perpetual low quality, quantity-based growth that benefits a small number of elites over the masses.

Restricting immigration and aiming for population stabilisation is a good start.

Unconventional Economist
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    • Peter SMEMBER

      I was once on a bus in Rome, coming from the airport. Next to me was a Polish surgeon, who lives in Stockholm, in town to present at a conference. Looking out at the chaos that is Rome, I commented that taxation was quite high in his adopted home of Sweden. Po-faced, he responded that in Sweden, education and healthcare are free, the roads are good and there are no tollways. Enough said I thought, especially compared with the Bunga-bunga land were were in!

      • After a couple of weeks in Italy in 2019 I concluded that it isn’t a first world country. Not third world either, but maybe second world. Every person, business and agency seemed to be thieves and grafters. Avis hit our credit card for 500 Euros after we got back with no comms, no stated reason…just an attempt to steal money from us.

        Lovely scenery and history though.

      • WTF is he on about?

        The Stockholm congestion charging system consists of a toll cordon around the inner city

        • Peter SMEMBER

          Jacob, this was about 8 years ago, so maybe that is a new situation.
          In any case, the toll about which you speak seems to be an anti-congestion and anti-pollution measure rather than the traditional toll to pay for infrastructure, which was the point of the observation about Sweden and taxation.
          Many cities, like Singapore and London, place a charge on entering their CBD, which is not to fund infrastructure but to protect the quality of life and enable public transport to work efficiently.

        • SnappedUpSavvyMEMBER

          yes avoid those areas if your after an unsafe monocultural experience like you get in fairfield, lakemba, cabramatta bankstown casula

      • Sweden sure has some problems but that;s a disingenuous article, falsely attributing long term emigration to recent restive Islam. Swedes also have a home grown history of anti-Semitism.

        • Ghost of Stewie Griffin

          There is absolutely no correlation with the historic anti-semitism in Nordic countries, their ability to maintain relatively homogenous societies and their success in delivering and maintaining the social services and sort of democratic socialism that Australia could only dream about.

          What if the ability to be critical of other foreign ideas, values and cultures took on the social function of white blood cells, fighting invading alien memes and values, that destabilise an existing society’s ability to collectively solve the economic problem for itself?

          While anti-semitisim and hatred of Jews as individuals should be unreservedly condemned, refusing to critique other cultures while only endlessly focusing on the problems with ‘whiteness’ (ie white males as the new Bourgeois of our cultural revolutionaries), and assuming all other cultures are benign or harmless, is essentially an unfair and one sided form of cultural warfare.

          Classing all legitimate criticism of incompatible cultural values as anti-semitisim, relies on a slippery slope fallacy and renders a society as defenseless against invading hostile ideas and values, as an AIDS victim is to bugs and bacteria.

  1. Common mistake made is to conflate happiness factor with content.
    I particularly like the “happiness ” factor used for Nordics.
    Northerners expect happiness to be something the size of a 10″ ruler, they get 9.97″ on that scale and they feel happy 99%
    Mediterraneans expect happiness to be size of a 100″ ruller and they get “only” 60% of that thus feel only partially happy. But they get 6x more happiness in real terms.
    Nordic countries are not happy(er), they are more “content” because they get almost all of their otherwise small expectation of what is happiness.

  2. The Traveling Wilbur

    So today is just going to be a dozen or so articles where under various names S t e w i e posts half the comments on each for the day then. Good luck everybody.

  3. Jumping jack flash

    Whats their debt growth, house prices and CPI like?
    Maybe they have reached the goldilocks zone of perpetual debt and dont need to steal wages to limp their economies along?

    Wait a minute, arent they the ones that literally pay people to take debt on?

  4. Mike Herman TroutMEMBER

    I lived with two Norwegian girls many years ago. My Nordic experience was a good one. Skol…

  5. The Nordic countries have a long and successful history of social democracy. Hence, any comparison is pointless and inappropriate.

    • They also have a long and “successful” history of social engineering… we barely begun with that.

    • kierans777MEMBER

      Social leads to “socialism” which we can’t have here after all 😉

  6. I’ve always found it interesting to compare Australia’s Socio Educational Index with that of the Nordic countries.
    Both Indices were very close up until about 15 years ago when the Indices started to diverge. Interestingly it is not simply the quality of our educations systems that’s diverging but rather the economic value of the skills traditionally associated with “educational advantage” is disappearing within the Australian system.
    To some extent this divergence in the advantage delivered by education is the result of labour reallocation to adjust for infrastructure deficiencies resulting from strong population growth (read Immigration) . But it’s wrong to lay this all at Immigrations door, because it is equally (if not more so) the result of changes in the nature of the skills that Australians are trying to acquire through education.
    I’ve often heard it said that only an idiot would try to get an engineering degree in Australia. It’s a really hard slog towards a low paying job with no job security. As a consequence Aussie kids are far more likely to do a degree in Business management or some aspect of Health / Community studies than their Nordic peers.
    Personally I believe that most of the changes in our Education system outcomes can be explained by changes in the make up of the Australian job market. The skills that we’re rewarding are the skills that we’re teaching and thereby the skills that our kids are focused on acquiring. Advanced Math ain’t one of the skills that a modern day Aussie kids needs to succeed, so if we look over time we’ll see that this skill is slowly being phased out of our education system. International Education comparisons (like PISA) are still focused on these old style skills sets and therefore indicate that our education system is slipping, but that’s not the real story because we’re changing the very nature of what we as Aussies want our Education system to deliver.
    In my opinion the problem starts with our job reward structures and the job security that needs to come hand in hand with certain educational achievements. If as Aussies we’re not prepared to make these changes (read allocate adequate funding, tax advantage, social advantage) then it is disingenuous to blame population growth for outcomes that we wouldn’t want even with a shrinking population.
    Just my thoughts…

    • Display NameMEMBER

      The only skills we need in Aus is filling in a loan application or if you are really ambitious become a Real Estate Professional. I use the term professional very loosely. I have some sympathy for your view. I am in IT/Software and it would appear that through the last 30 years the government was doing it best to make me redundant by importing cheap 3rd world labour. Our education system values being able to say hello in 5 different indigenous languages over basic skills like reading or math tables. It is no wonder we are falling behind internationally.

      • That’s a bit of a copout.
        Australia has deliberately created economic advantage in a number of areas over the last decade
        Take for instance NDIS, don’t get me wrong it’s a clusterF but it’s our cluserF and it’s Aussies delivering services to disadvantaged members of the community. It is the type of employment that we Aussies have decided to fund.
        At the same time we removed the relatively small subsidies which our Automotive industry enjoyed because it was a change that was popular with the public. Our government simply delivered the policy that people wanted.
        Maybe neither you nor I wanted that policy but I suspect that most average Aussies did.
        So we now have huge NDIS job opportunities but no Car making / developing jobs.
        Our education systems is simply changing to reflect our social preferences.
        As for Real Estate, like all religions it’s illogical and delivers the greatest advantages to the true believers. Personally I’ve never understood religion so I don’t even waste my time trying to understand Australian RE.

        • Display NameMEMBER

          I am not so sure people wanted the car industry deleted. It was a grossly misrepresented story. ALL countries support their car industries in some form or another. it was just an utterly incompetent pair in Abbott and Hockey thought it might pay well in the media. It might have been a good launching point for EV’s. EV’s have two orders of magnitude moving parts. We have all the minerals to make the batteries, the biggest cost but…. a total lack of vision

  7. Ailart SuaMEMBER

    I have a couple of chapters on the ‘Nordic Model’ in a book I hope to one day complete. The system employed by all 5 Nordic nations is a blend of capitalist economics with robust socialist values. Nonetheless, it was not immune to neoliberalism. In the 2008 GFC, Iceland was severely crippled; primarily as a result of corrupt bankers and politicians. The citizens revolted in what’s known as the ‘Pots and Pans Revolution – forcing Prime Minister Minister Geir Haarde and his entire right-wing government to resign. Notably, Iceland was the only country in the world to actually jail corrupt bankers in the fallout. The citizens also came within a whisker of changing sections of their Constitution and introducing new sections.

    There’s a lot to like about the Nordic Model. And a hell of a lot to dislike about the model we suffer under. Maybe it’s time for our own ‘Pots and Pans Revolution’? I cannot envisage much of a future for our grand children and their children, I’m afraid – unless major changes are made to the way governments are installed and made accountable.

  8. SchillersMEMBER

    One big difference between the Nordic countries and Australia is the perennial “jobs and growth”. New jobs go to locals, not foreigners. The reverse happens in the land downunder.
    Crucially, GDP per person in the Nordic countries has been growing much faster than here. The less the population grows, the more each person’s share of GDP increases. Countries with nosebleed levels of immigration (Australia) have very poor growth in per capita GDP.