Denmark says ‘non-Western’ immigrants cost state 31 billion kroner

People walking in central Copenhagen. The Danish government has released figures on net immigration costs for various demographic groups-.
People walking in central Copenhagen. The Danish government has released figures on net immigration costs for various demographic groups-. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix
The cost to the state of immigration from countries defines as ‘non-Western’ was 31 billion kroner in 2018, according to an annual report from the Danish Ministry of Finance.

Calculated as a net cost or nettobidrag, the figure is based on state spending on public services related to immigration and welfare benefits received by immigrants.

This means that, along with spending on benefits, the costs of public services to which everyone in Denmark has access are included in the calculation.

As such, the costs per person of things like health care, child care, education and culture are factored into the calculation of what the state spends on specified groups and individuals.

Tax contributions from persons who fall into the category ‘non-Western immigrant or descendant’ are deducted from the total.

In a press release on Friday, the finance ministry said that the figure was 2 billion kroner less than in 2017, and down from 42 billion kroner in 2015. The full report can be found here.

Authorities and statistical agencies in Denmark categorise people considered not of Danish heritage into two groups: ‘immigrants’ and ‘descendants’ of immigrants (‘efterkommere’).

A person is considered to be Danish if she or he has at least one parent who is a Danish citizen and was born in Denmark. People defined as ‘immigrants’ and ‘descendants’ do not fulfil those criteria. The difference between the two is that an ‘immigrant’ was born outside of Denmark, while a ‘descendant’ was born in Denmark. 

Meanwhile, all EU countries along with Andorra, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Vatican are considered ‘Western’.

Everywhere else – all of Latin America, Africa and Asia – is ‘non-Western’.

However, authorities have now also begun to divide the ‘non-Western’ classification into so-called ‘MENAPT’ countries and ‘other’ non-Western countries.

MENAPT refers to countries in the Middle East and North Africa plus Pakistan and Turkey.

The former of these two groups cost the state 24 billion of the overall 31 billion kroner spent on non-Western immigration in 2018, according to the ministry statement.

People from the MENAPT countries constituted around 55 percent of all non-Western immigrants and descendants in 2018.

The notable difference in the net contribution between the two groups must be seen in context of their primary reasons for moving to Denmark, the ministry writes.

That is because a larger proportion of people from MENAPT countries arrive in Denmark as refugees or for family reunification, while those from other countries are more likely to move to Denmark because of a job offer or study place.

Presented as a per-person cost, immigrants and descendants from MENAPT countries cost the Danish state 85,000 kroner per person in 2018, according to the ministry. For those from other non-Western countries, the figure is 4,000 kroner per person.

Immigrants from Western countries give a net contribution to state finances through their tax payments, the ministry also writes. The same applies for Danish nationals.

Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye cited the falling overall spending on non-Western migrants as vindication of the government’s strict stance on immigration.

“The report confirms the problems we know about. There is still a large integration lag,” Tesfaye said in the statement.

“But I am happy it shows net spending on immigrants and descendants continues to fall,” he added.

“It’s good news. Strict immigration policy works,” Tesfaye also said.

Lower welfare benefits for refugees compared to others on social support (integrationsydelsen) were introduced by the then-Liberal led government in 2015. They were expected to save the state one billion kroner by 2020, it was reported a year later.

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