Over the last decade or so the sometimes virulent anti-immigration rhetoric has obscured the reputation of Sweden as a land of opportunity for innovators and one offering sanctuary to the politically oppressed and has hidden the reality that:
Immigration has been a major source of population growth and cultural change throughout much of the history of Sweden.
But once in a while a story such as this one reassures my faith that the real Sweden is not only still present – but alive and well and thriving. And it can be found wherever one looks – just under the surface but sometimes hidden by noisy rabble and hooligans wielding iron bars.
A small-town shopkeeper’s folksy Facebook greeting to newly-arrived Syrian refugees kicked off a big-time media frenzy that continues to reverberate, making Bo Oskarsson of Kaxås our pick for Swede of the Week.
Oskarsson’s unexpected ascent to nationwide recognition began with a humble posting on the Facebook page of the Ica grocery store he runs in Kaxås, a small village in Offerdal, nestled among the hills and forests of the northwestern Swedish county of Jämtland.
“We welcome all those newly arrived from Syria and we hope that you’ll enjoy beautiful Offerdal,” read the post, published on January 18th. …
… By Tuesday, Oskarsson had been featured in several Swedish newspapers, prompting comments from celebrities and commentators mystified over the fact that more Swedes seemed to be talking about a local grocery store than news that Swedish Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni was stepping down.
“Every now and again you catch a glimpse of a hero. First time I’ve been proud to have an Ica-card,” tweeted author and comedian Jonas Gardell along with a link to the story.
While most of the attention was positive, Oskarsson also found himself the target of criticism and threats from those critical of Swedish refugee policies.
“Someone wrote that I should be hung from a lamp post,” he told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
…. Oskarsson sees the refugees as a needed boost for the area’s dwindling population, but remains baffled that his Facebook experiment has engaged people across the country.
“We only created the page to make it easier to publicize offers to our regular customers,” he said before hastily drawing the conversation to a close.
“I’ve been doing interviews for four days and need to get back to work.”
Of course the loony far-right and their hangers-on are appalled and have stepped up their hate campaign. They would rather not acknowledge that it is the inflow of immigrants which is vital to the future demographics of Sweden. It allows the number of people in the working population to increase. Without this there would be an unsustainable shrinkage of the working-age population as the Central Statistics Bureau writes:
Net migration to Sweden has by and large been positive since the 1930s. As a consequence the number of foreign-born people has risen. The number of people who are born abroad is presumed to increase during most of the forecast period at about the same rate as observed in the last preceding decades. In 2005, 12.4 percent of the population was born abroad. According to the forecast, this percentage is expected to increase to 18.5 percent in 2050. …. The number of people of working age (20-64 years old) is rising but the proportion of people of working age is shrinking. The cause of the shrinking proportion despite an increase in numbers, is mainly that the number of people aged 65 and over is increasing much more relative to other age groups.