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Comparing Sweden Immigration Policy with German Immigration Policy Compare and Contrast Essay



Among the many policies established by various nations, immigration policies are some of the states’ laws that have many biases attached to them. Aristide defines immigration policy as “any policy of a state that deals with the transit of persons across its borders into the country especially those that intend to work and remain in the country” (2006, p.23).

A country may choose to prohibit the transit of people across its borders or rather permit free movement of people. However, as priory mentioned, even in situations of free immigration, the state must establish some criterion of distinguishing people who fit from those who do not. One of such biasness may entail the issuance of a directive to permit the admission of citizens belonging to a given multi or bilateral form of an organization such as commonwealth amongst others.

More often, scholars have criticized immigration policies based on what characterizes them: religious or even racial prejudices. As Herrera and Moualhi posit, “In liberal-democratic polities, the question of ‘who makes immigration policy’ evokes the question of the extent at which those policies mirror the preferences of a majority of citizens, or rather those of small interest groups” (2004, p.1).

The most preferred answer being to foster multiculturalism attitude in the formulation and implementation of the immigration policies within a country. With this in mind, the paper scrutinizes the Sweden and Germany immigration policies. The focus lies on unveiling the imminent racial inequalities that characterize these two countries coupled with conducting an examination of how recent social policy contributed to maintaining or reducing the inequalities.

Immigration policies in Germany and Sweden

Over the years, immigration has constituted a global phenomenon worth regulating by enacting various state policies. While not negating permanent immigrants, the immigrants’ population constitutes both temporally, frontier and seasonal workers. Disguised as one of these legally acceptable immigrants, the immigrant population also comprises of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers who may or may not be legally recognized.

As Luciani Posits, “In Europe, new flows into the traditional countries of emigration such as Italy, Spain and Portugal have supplemented the long established migration patterns from ex colonies to the UK and France, and of Turks to Germany” (1993, p.59). Over the decades, both eastern and central Europe have experienced ardent political changes that have in turn resulted to the creation of magnificent immigration pressures among the citizens.

Whether Sweden or Germany, most of the immigrants come from developing nations. The developing nations faced the challenges of the high population growth rates, which outweigh the rate at which their governments can create employment opportunities. Consequently, immigration acts like a safety valve, which has significant advantages in terms of provision of employment.

In this end immigration is somewhat influential in that “Remittances can be a significant source of foreign exchange, while returning migrants may bring capital and skills to foster economic growth” (Luciani 1993, p.57). In this context, immigration stands as a critical mechanism for ensuring free movement of capital and skills across the globe: something that is necessary for maximization of global welfare.

However, the maximization of global welfare through encouraging immigration faces critical challenge since as Esping-Anderson argues, “”labor is unable to withhold itself for long without recourse to alternative means of subsistence” (1990, 37). Unfortunately, economic forces are not the only determinants of immigration policies: politics plays significant roles in setting of immigration policies.

“The receiving countries’ immigration policies determine the scale of immigration flows…it is their national economic evaluation of the costs and benefits that is central to understanding this phenomenon” (Luciani 1993, p.70).

West Germany had made incredible endeavors to make a rotation of the immigrant labor policies through the “guest workers” system. This system had experienced a remarkable failure since, as Krauss and Baumol (1979) reckon, it did not “prevent the emergence of a permanent immigrant community which exceeded 10% of the workforce one quarter of which was Turkish” (p.37). The year 1967 through 1968 saw Germany experience a recession.

When Germany encountered an oil prices shock in 1973 through 1974, a reason for alteration of its policies including immigration policies was necessary. One of such a wave of changes entailed increment of permits for the primary immigration coupled with conduction of foreign labor recruitments by November 1973. At around the same time, “the number of permits for relatives of existing migrants was increased effectively recognizing the failure of the rotational system” (Luciani 1993, p.67).

Recessions constituted one of the rationales behind the implementation of more rigid immigration controls in Germany then. However, as Hansen posits, “the available evidence of unemployment rates amongst unskilled workers (approx. 0.1%) suggests other political considerations were of greater importance than the state of the labor market” (1993, p.90). In this context, the forces of demand and supply never influenced the inflow of immigrants.

This is perhaps shifts from believe that “Within the market, the liberal dogma of freedom appears justified: the worker can freely choose between alternative utilities, jobs, employers, and leisure trade-offs” (Esping-Anderson 1990, pp.36-37). There were jobs opportunities that emerged with the onset of high industrialization.

Immigrants were required to fill these job opportunities and not those held by the natives. Tantamount to Germany, in 1970s, Sweden also faced the dilemma of whether to permit free immigration or not. In 1972, Sweden had deployed strategies that ensured the reduction of the emigration permits. It also heralded foreign labor immigration recruitments.

Arguably, the need to reserve employment opportunities for the native population may not have amply explained the initial early 1970s immigration controls, followed by maintenance of the same. The evident increment of the unemployment at around the same time in West Germany is a sufficient justification of the claim. Consequently, an alternative explanation of the alteration of the policies may lie on the concerns confined to social repercussion of the immigrant community.

Additionally, the immigrant population exerted immense pressure on the limited social amenities such as health, social, education and the security services. As Hansen (1993) posits, “Pressure from trade unions feared that immigrants would depress wages, consequently, displacing their members in employment” (78). These two latter concerns rely on the economic concerns for permitting free immigration.

On a larger extent, the early 1970s strategies to curtail immigration were somewhat successful. Unfortunately, a substantial drawback was evident in maintaining the population of the immigrant communities within certain prescribed levels. The natural reproduction rates for the immigrant communities were much larger in relation to the native German communities.

In this end, Molle and Mourik (1988) note that “while the European fertility rate is approximately 1.6 children per woman below the replacement ratio of 2.1, that of Tunisian women resident in France was 6.19 and by 199210% of all births were to parents of foreign origin in Germany, Belgium, France and the UK” (p.79). This scenario was much similar to what was happening to Sweden. It was then necessary for the immigrant communities to adjust their birth rate to match that of European nations.

Sweden is the largest country that forms the Nordic countries in terms of population. Westin (2006) notes that “with a population of nine million it is one of the smaller members of the European Union, which it joined in 1995” (Para 1). The rapid extension of the public sector in the 1950-60 was widely necessitated by the by the immigrant labor recruitments which give an extra advantage in that it provided extra tax base.

In this extent, it is perhaps ample to pose a query as to whether the immigrants are equal citizens to the native citizens. With the need to foster multiculturalism and shunning from racism, many nations would argue that their immigration policies are free from these negatives.

However, as evidenced by Sweden, “a number of social indicators show that people of migrant origin have considerably higher rates of unemployment than native Swedes and that they are more heavily dependent on social welfare benefits” (Westin 2006, para.2). This gives an indication of state accepted inequalities between immigrant communities and the Swedes, though amplified by historical social policies.

The time 1949 to 1971 marked an essential period in the emergence of Sweden immigration policies. During this period, there were policies that permitted free entry of people from Finland and southern Europe nations. At his time majority of the countries in the Western Europe were out looking for additional labor.

The massive growth of the Swedish export market by 1940s perhaps signaled the issue. In 1950 to 1960s, Sweden had permitted large-scale migration of people of Finland origin. Westin (2006) approximates that “a total of 550,000 Finns migrated to Sweden during this time” (Para 10). Unlike Germany in 1970, Sweden never set up guest workers program to curtail immigration. Rather rate of immigration was at the peak in the 1970 in Sweden.

In fact, Westin (2006) adds, “Unlike other Western European countries, Sweden had a policy of permanent immigration that treated these labor migrants as future citizens” (Para. 11). In 1970s, the government dedicated a lot of time to dialogue with Swedish trade union (LO) on the significance of conducting recruitment of foreign labor. However, the immigrants were to get a Swedish-like treatment.

Westin reckons that “the LO and the government struck a consensus that “importing cheap labor would not be allowed and that foreign workers were to enjoy the same wage levels and rights as Swedes, including access to unemployment benefits” (2006, Para. 13). In this regard, the government wanted the most ideal situation free from prejudices based on race or any other social discriminating trait against the foreigners as compared to the native Swedes.

Apart from the labor recruitment executed by industrial based companies, an increasing number of immigrant flowed into Sweden. This was not a problem to the nation in as much as these immigrants found jobs. Lack of solid policies to contain and controlled immigration in 1960s made Sweden authorities unaware of expanding immigrant flows.

However, by 1967, immigration law was underway with the intension of slowing down the immigration rate especially where recruiting companies did not directly sponsor it.

Brubaker (1990) adds that “Many Western European countries began to consider curbing labor migration in the early 1970s, with most programs stopping around the time of the 1973 oil crisis with Sweden officially ended labor migration from non-Nordic countries in 1972” (p.340). However, the Sweden immigration polices continued to permit free entry of the asylum seekers in the period starting from 1972 to 1989.

Sweden is perhaps one of the nations that have arguably endeavored through its immigration policies to guarantee equal treatment of immigrants and it native residents. As a way of example, in 1972, Idi Amin expelled from Uganda people of Asian origin who went latter seeking asylum globally.

While Canada and the US accepted some of the well-educated refugees, they accommodated the rest in the European countries of which Sweden had its share of about 1000. To reinforce this argument further, Westin (2006) notes that, in 1973, “some 5,000 refugees from Chile were accepted after the coup against Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973…Approximately 6,000 refugees from Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru also came to Sweden” (Para 15).

Still, on religious grounds, Sweden never prejudiced the immigrants who sought refuge. Refugees from Middle East: mainly Islamic in origin, between 1970s and 1980s found sound homes in Sweden. Additionally, Christian Syrians ran for asylum in Sweden in fear of religious persecution.

In 1990s, in fear of persecution and humiliation of the Saddam Hussein dictatorial regime, Sweden also accommodated many Iraqis. However, this immigration rate was alarming making the government make certain provisions in the immigration policies to help curb and or reduce the immigration rate.

One of the changes was only to give asylum based on humanitarian grounds. Such an approach “allowed the immigration authorities to appease liberal critics who felt that Sweden was not doing enough to live up to its commitments to the UN” (Aristide 2006, p.47). Through not appreciating the asylum seekers as being refugees as defined in the UN convection, the refuges did not get certain rights including protection rights.

Amid the immigration controls of 1972s, recruitment of laborers from countries not belonging to the Nordic regions were tremendously dwindled. Nevertheless, refuges, coupled with their family members, had permanent residence permission into Sweden. This resulted into a chain migration.

The flow of refugees into Sweden was critical. Hence, a policy was to be in place to control the flow rate. The government did not put its intents to curtail the inflow of refuges into the country.

All it did was “to rule that political asylum applications filed in December 1989 or later would be treated strictly in accordance with the 1951 Geneva Convention; humanitarian grounds for asylum would no longer be used” (Taguma, Kim, Brink &Teltemann 2010, p.13). This was like a state fostered policy to regulate immigration since it was highly effective in cutting down the inflow of refuges.

Sweden has a long traditional history of egalitarian policies. Even with endeavors to ensure that immigrant have equal rights as Swedish natives, some discrepancies are evident, as voiced by Taguma, Kim, Brink and Teltemann (2010), when they claim that “In 1995, the foreign-born with less than five years presence in Sweden had employment rates 50 points lower than the native-born” (p.14). On a different research, the gap has tremendously dropped up to about 26 points (OECD 2007, p.34). An enormous earnings gap is also evident between immigrants and the natives of Sweden. According to Taguma, Kim, Brink and Teltemann (2010), “in Sweden, foreign-born persons earn 17% less than native born persons, which while compared to other OECD countries is a moderate gap comparable to Germany’s 17%” (p.14).

Somewhat worth to note is that immigrant’s policies do not only cut across the process of allowing entry or rejecting the entry of foreign people in to a country. It also embraces what happens soon or latter after denying or permitting entry or what Brubaker (1990) terms as “immigrants integration into the society” (p.379).

Now, two concepts are essential for consideration in relation to Swedish and Germany immigration policies: multiculturalism and assimilation. By assimilation, it infers that the immigrants keeps their cultures at bay and adopts the ways of life and cultures of the natives.

Multiculturalism, on the other hand, infers that the immigrants keeps part of their cultures but also adopts some elements of the cultures of those they find in their new habitats. The question that remains is, ‘do Sweden and Germany immigration policies permit or rather promote assimilation or multiculturalism?’.

The German policy is widely taken as a differential policy. In fact, as Herrera and Moualhi (2004) reckon, the Swede and German policies rely on the need to maintain low profiled attitudes towards assimilation (p.12). This is perhaps largely different as compared to other EU nations such as Britain, which tend to incline more on multiculturalism.

However, most scholars contend that such nations immigration policies do not have concepts of multiculturalism at the core of their heart on the purposes of fostering integration but rather on the need to keep racism at bay. This means that racism is evident in the integration policies of the immigrants adopted by both Germany and Sweden.

Swedes’ considerations to ease the entry of the immigrants who wish to adopt the ways of life of the native Swedes amplify this argument (Herrera & Moualhi 2004, p.13). This seems more of a liberal approach to social welfare in which Esping-Anderson argues that “”is not the fault of the system, but solely a consequence of an individual’s lack of foresight and thrift” (Esping-Anderson 1990, p.42). This implies that racism is evident in the integration policies of the immigrants adopted by both Germany and Sweden.

This policy is somewhat largely consistent with the endeavors of the government to foster multiculturalism. However, fostering multiculturalism as previously discussed has the effects of maintaining some form of cultural differences in the minds of not only the immigrants themselves but also appreciation of the same by the natives.

As Herrera and Moualhi (2004) posit, “The attitudes of the German are similar to those of the Swede, as also the German seem to come to terms with the existence of different customs and traditions while preferring that immigrants adopt the “way of life in Germany” (p.14). The deference that exists between the German and the Swedish immigration policies in this extent pertains to the fact that Germany advocates for the deferential integration program.

The deferential integration policy appreciates and accommodates establishments of segregated communities defined by differing cultures. The government avails minimal support to such communities. By providing minimal support to the segregated communities, the German government proves its inability to tolerate cultural diversity.

In this end, Krauss and Baumol comment that “The German integration policies have induced segregated communities that do not help the living together between eussiller and natives, and the large Turkish minority have for long been considered as guest workers without the right to acquire the German citizenship” (1979, p.44) sounds significant.

This perhaps makes an indication that even though Germany claims to integrate the immigrants, in the actual sense it does not. The integration policy of Germany lies on the foundations of homogeneous culture.

Then, do the naturalization and citizenship law enforced in 2000 acclaim German immigration and integration policies compliant with their claimed opening to appreciate cultural diversity? This law alteration makes the process of naturalization of the foreigners who settled in German soil easier and more importantly introduce the jus soli principles to the off springs of these long-term immigrants.


The immigration policies aim at providing a mechanism of segregating people who fit in a given state and those who are not worth. Many of such policies have contents of racism and various others discrimination including looking at the level of education coupled with skills level of the immigrants.

This paper confirms such discrimination in Sweden and German immigration and integration policies. Furthermore, the paper has held the position: by looking at immigration history of the Sweden, that the formulation of the immigration policies has economic and political reasons tied behind them.

For instance, in 1940s, Sweden underwent tremendous growth and hence needed large labor. The immigration policy was thus that fostering free migration to seal the labor requirements gap. With the gap sealed, the policies reduced the immigration rate from the Nordic nations.

Furthermore, people have argued that immigration policies introduce discrepancies between immigrants and the native in terms of the employment levels. This coupled with cultural difference has the effect of making immigrants seem like lesser citizens compared to the natives. Therefore, racism and social policy history in Germany amplified these inequalities.


Aristide, Z., 2006. A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America, New York: Harvard University Press.

Brubaker, R., 1990. “Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany”. International Sociology, 5(4), pp.379-407.

Esping-Anderson, G., 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. New Jersey, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hansen, B., 1993. Immigration Policies in Fortress Europe: In Labor and an Integrated Europe. Washington: The Brookings Institute.

Herrera, E., & Moualhi, D., 2004. Public opinions and immigration policies in five EU Countries: accounting for inconsistencies between selection and integration policies and citizens’ altitudes. Web.

Krauss, M., & Baumol, W., 1979. “Guest Workers and Income Transfer Programs financed by Host Governments”. Kylos, 32(7), pp.36-46.

Luciani, G., 1993. Migration Policies in Europe and the United States. London: Kluwer.

Molle, W., & Mourik, A., 1988. “International Movements of Labour under Conditions of Economic Integration: The Case of Western Europe”. Journal of Common Market Studies, 26(3), p.79.

OECD., 2007. Jobs for Immigrants: Labor Market Integration in Australia, Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Paris: OECD.

Taguma, M., Kim, M., Brink, S., & Teltemann, J., 2010. Education in Sweden. Web.

Westin, C., 2006. . Web.

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