Tuesday, July 03, 2018

On Denmark's Laws for Immigrant Ghettos

The NYTimes has a news-item  In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’.
Starting at the age of 1, “ghetto children” must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments. Other Danish citizens are free to choose whether to enroll children in preschool up to the age of six.

Of 22 proposals presented by the government in early March, most have been agreed upon by a parliamentary majority, and more will be subject to a vote in the fall.

The New York Times struggles to make sense of its native country; and is not a reliable guide to understanding the US of A, let alone any foreign country.   For any thing that matters to me, I should try to get as close to primary sources as possible.  In this case, it means the Danish press.

It is not to hard, it turns out.  An easy way is to open in Google Chrome, two versions of a page, one translated and the other not.  This allows you to figure out from the translated page the Danish terms on which to search in Danish.

One immediate result is that within my search,  this NY Times statement
mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language.
is not fully verified.  The instruction will be on the Danish language and values like "gender equality, community, participation and co-responsibility".   Which is a relief, because mandatory training on language to me of a very different nature than mandatory religio-cultural training.  Also, the proposal here had 30 hours a week rather than 25 hours.

What is a ghetto? A link on the page linked here provides precise criteria
The residential area must meet at least 3 of the following 5 conditions:
  1. The proportion of immigrants and descendants from non-western countries exceeds 50 per cent.
  2. The proportion of residents aged 18-64 years who are unrelated to the labor market or education exceeds 40 per cent. calculated as average over the past 2 years.
  3. The number of convicted persons for violation of the Penal Code, the Firearms Act or the law on euphoric substances exceeds 2.7%. of the number of residents aged 18 and over calculated as average over the last 2 years.
  4. The proportion of residents aged 30-59, who only have a primary education, exceeds 50 per cent.
  5. The average gross income for taxpayers aged 15-64 years in the area excluding education applicants accounts for less than 55 per cent. of the average gross income for the same group in the region.
One thing to keep in mind is that Denmark is just 5.7 million people with about a half million immigrants.  By way of comparison, New York City is 8.5 million people, with 3 million residents born abroad.  Denmark is a "Scandinavian welfare state" with free health care and education.

A Golden Triangle Flexicurity is a compound of flexibility and security. The Danish model has a third element - active labour market policy - and together these elements comprise the golden triangle of flexicurity.
One side of the triangle is flexible rules for hiring and firing, which make it easy for the employers to dismiss employees during downturns and hire new staff when things improve. About 25% of Danish private sector workers change jobs each year.
The second side of the triangle is unemployment security in the form of a guarantee for a legally specified unemployment benefit at a relatively high level - up to 90% for the lowest paid workers.
The third side of the triangle is the active labour market policy. An effective system is in place to offer guidance, a job or education to all unemployed. Denmark spends approx. 1.5% of its GDP on active labour market policy.
The system into which immigrants are to assimilated in Denmark is very different from that in the US of A.  E.g., statistica.com tells us "In April 2018, the total monthly benefits paid to unemployed people in the United States amounted to 2.53 billion U.S. dollars."  That amounts to 0.15% of GDP.

Here are some links:
There is compulsory integration - no school must have more than 30% immigrant children.  They want to do something similar in housing; the current ghettos will not admit anyone new who is on welfare, I think.

What has been more difficult has been to find Danish editorials about these proposals.  

My view - That the definition of "ghetto" above singles out immigrant residential areas is a symptom of a severe social problem.  If immigrants are not left to swim or sink on their own, but can take advantage of the "active labour market policy" then perhaps those who don't do so or at least don't prepare their children to do so should be threatened with benefit cuts.   What are the practical barriers to getting an education in a country where education is free? Do these proposals address those?  "Head Start" for kids is a good thing, making it compulsory with a threat of welfare benefit cuts is at best characterized as "tough love".  But on the other hand if the child does not learn Danish by the time they are of school age, how will they get educated?  It will make for a permanent underclass.  Positive incentives and the practical means to disperse from "the projects" is good; double the punishment for crimes committed in the ghettos is to me a scary and distasteful proposition.

One thing I'm pessimistic about is that these measures be adopted in the US without any of the funding (e.g., the usual "want English-only but refuse to pay for English classes for those lacking English".)
PS: the economic immigrant comes primed to work; I don't know what attitudes prevail among the asylum immigrant.