Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Concentration of Migrants in the Million Programme Areas

There are of course different sides, and in particular chains of events, to everything. When those who speak for us in the public sphere are mostly dramatic and alarmist politicians and journalists, it becomes even more important to differentiate between and find the true causes things.
That there are many migrants or people with "foreign heritage" living in the Million Programme[1] areas has now been a part of the Swedish discourse for nearly half a century. And that this is something negative has almost become an axiom. But why? And is it so? And if so, why? This is just a brief input made to lift a broader conversation on this topic.

Concentrations of populace are in themselves by definition not a problem. The problem is that certain "concentrations" are not reached by the same information as other concentrations, such as information about available jobs. Information about which schools are good, how to quickly receive care and other things that are essential in our lives, is also missing or scarce.

With this information deficit, many in the concentrations of immigrant and million programme populace (migrants + traditional working class) end up in unfavorable situations. The reason then for these unfavorable situations is not the concentration itself but primarily that our public sector has failed and is failing to provide information to all citizens equally well. The objective to get information out to "everyone" is often formulated in government agency directives, and it is also a prerequisite in order for the "market" that the public sector provides (the school market for instance) to work. It is a pillar of market economy that everyone know the supply available so that they can demand it.

The prime example of this failure can be found in jobs and public sector recruitment: today the majority of workers in the private sector are recruited through informal recruitment, and a very large part similarly in the public sector (according to the Swedish Agency for Government Employers (SAGE) around half of the people employed by government authorities, for example). Only a few years ago virtually no jobs offered through informal recruiting went to immigrants,  presumably because these jobs never become visible to the target group and so cannot be applied for – those who can demand the supply do not see it.

Another drawback with the concentrations as they operate without proper information is that research on empathy, for example that of Ervin Staub, provides much evidence suggesting that we care less about people we do not deal with. On this topic there is a good short Ted talk which shows how voters in the U.S. reason. This makes it a problem having concentrations who live separate lives and who also, because of information deficits, do not meet on the platforms (jobs, events, associations) which are available outside of work for people to meet. However, all of that is mostly due to external factors and not due to the concentration in itself being bad. In theory, we would not live apart if information availability was the same for everyone and we met on other platforms. How often is it that one’s neighbors or those who live in one’s area are the ones one has the most exchanges, meetings, and relations with?

If you were employed, knew the same schools as the majority, and so on, and so on, your contact with mainstream society would happen that way, just like for most people. Compare – just to illustrate the point – how many people that ever date a neighbor to how many people ever date a colleague. What you have right in your neighborhood becomes a safety factor, but not what gives you an "in" into society or social situations, which of course is also the prerequisite for new opportunities to open up in our lives.

[1] Swedish nationwide building projects for affordable housing in the sixties and seventies.