Free Immigration and Welfare Access: The Swedish Experience


  • Submitted November 2012.

  • The author is grateful for comments and suggestions from Pelle Ahlerup, Lisa Andersson, Simona Bejenariu, Arne Bigsten, Jorge Bonilla, Oana Borcan, Lennart Flood, Olof Johansson-Stenman, Kristina Mohlin, Katarina Nordblom and Anja Tolonen.


With the expansion of the European Union from 15 to 25 member countries in 2004, fears of migrants’ excessive welfare use led 14 of the 15 older member countries to impose restrictions on the access of citizens of the new member countries – the A10 countries – to their welfare systems. Sweden was the only exception. This paper evaluates the net contribution of post-enlargement A10 immigrants to Swedish public finances in 2007. On average, A10 immigrants generate less public revenue than the population on average, but they also cost less. The net result is a zero or small positive net contribution. In particular, A10 immigrants do not benefit more from basic social welfare than the population on average. The discounted net contribution over the A10 immigrants’ lifetimes may be positive or negative depending, for example, on their income assimilation rates and on future real interest rates.