Today Sweden has the most market-friendly schooling system in the modern world. The only country that comes close is Chile.
Immigration policy was tightly regulated by the trade unions until the mids. From that time on, the government changed its immigration policy and, one step at a time, Sweden turned into the most immigrant-friendly country in Europe.
In the years between and Sweden received approximately 1. But at the end of this policy suddenly changed and the government imposed an extremely restrictive immigration policy. These are just a few of the many recent examples of rapid and radical political turnaround in Sweden. Such extreme shifts from one policy to the other are criticized and not always popular, but severe conflicts or protests are rare.
Surveys show that a majority of Swedes were against the generous immigration policy pursued by the government, and Swedes have never liked the idea of private companies making profit out of a the publically-financed schooling system. But Swedes have never shown any strong opposition to these dramatic policy reversals. It might seem that our self-conception of being a middle-way place and our record of extremist shifts are at war with each other.
But the truth is that these two Swedish tendencies reinforce, and explain, each other. Our sense of ourselves as lagom makes it much easier to make dramatic change here, as opposed to societies that are more contentious. In other words, our extremism is made possible by our culture of consensus.
We go with the political flow and embrace a new direction. If the general debate turns right—we move with the debate. If the debate turns left, we will all praise planned economy.
And when we embark on a reform, there are very few naysayers who will say this is too much. You might call this the paradox of consensus culture. We individually like to be modest, and, as a result, when we act collectively, we tend to take the most radical stance. Certainly, a consensus society has many virtues.
Democracy can function smoothly when we all are ready to compromise and come to a new common understanding. Traditionally, Sweden has had very few conflicts in our labor markets. We have hardly ever experienced any serious political crisis. Political parties normally get along and opt for compromise rather than conflict. However, democracy can also be valued for the diversity of opinions, and in this, democracy in Sweden has been rather weak.
But these characteristics of Sweden may not last forever. Indeed, we are seeing two major changes at once. First, the globalized world has awakened us to the reality that we are not a middle-way country, but rather a quite exceptional place. Second, we are no longer a homogeneous culture, but a multi-ethnic society in a globalized world. Income gaps here have grown and social cohesion in society is much weaker today that when Marquis Childs visited and wrote his book.
Volvo is no longer making cars affordable for a teacher.
World Population Review
Instead, it is successfully selling its vehicles to a conscious global upper middle class. In recent years the political debate in Sweden has become more polarized. Following the last election, we experienced the first serious political crisis in years. But it does appear that Sweden is turning in the direction of something approaching normalcy. We are becoming a little more like you.
And a little less lagom and a little less extreme. The centuries-old policy of open repression and anti-Gypsyism, enacted by the state had come to an end; however, the new policy was based on assimilation, which neglected minority rights and did not treat the Roma as equal partners. No work was done to challenge the continuing discrimination and wide spread anti-Gypsyism by authorities at all levels and amongst society at large. Most importantly, this new policy failed to fulfil its own goals.
The importance 13 of the author and activist Katarina Taikon for the Swedish Roma rights movement cannot be over-stated. Beyond Sweden, her influence was felt in other countries, especially Finland.
She was not allowed to attend school as a child and learned how to read and write as an adolescent. With an exceptional intellect and sense of passionate engagement, she appeared just as the time was ripe for demands to recognise Roma rights in Sweden. She was fearless in confronting leading politicians during debates. The basis of her engagement was the fight for recognising human rights, inspired by the civil rights movement of that era, in the USA. Her activism was secular and inclusive, in the sense that she engaged herself not only on behalf of her own community, but also forged alliances with other, non-Romani communities.
In , she founded the Roma rights organization Zigenarsamfundet, together with the publicist, Evert Kumm and the physician John Takman. In she successfully led protests for the rights of Polish Roma and Italian Roma refugees, to be granted leave to remain in Sweden. She described herself as a Social Democrat; however, as the SD government in expelled a group of French, Italian and Spanish Roma to an uncertain destiny, she lost confidence in the ability of political institutions to achieve change.
She described this as the reason why she started to write autobiographical books, inspired by her own childhood, about the Swedish Romani girl Katitzi , which became an international success. In she suffered a heart attack and never regained consciousness before she died in Amongst her closest allies in civil rights activism were her sister, Rosa Taikon and Hans Caldaras.
In February the Swedish parliament ratified the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities , which came into force 1st June and guaranteed political, social and cultural rights. Roma were acknowledged as a Swedish national minority. One result, which distinguishes Sweden from Norway in this case, is that the exonyms Tattare and Zigenare disappear from official language, in favour of the terms Romer and Resandefolket.
Another was that the Resande group, which had officially been unrecognised since , yet suffered continuous discrimination, were finally recognised.
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In , the Swedish Church and the government officially apologized for their treatment of Romani people. Even though these measures could be criticised as unsatisfactory, the issue of anti-Gypsyism has been established on the political agenda. Notwithstanding the improvements in many areas, important issues remain unresolved.
The life prospects of Romani people in Sweden are still limited by structural anti-Gypsyism 19 and discrimination, Roma organizations in Sweden are weak and nobody could overlook the situation of EU migrants begging in Sweden, reflecting the European dimension of anti-Gypsyism and re-activating stereotypes, which are exploited in the populist discourse in Sweden and the Nordic states. The recognition of national minority status started a process of developing policies at the local level.
Special attention was given to the issue of the revitalisation of suppressed cultural identities and languages, particularly through language education.
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A growing number of Roma activists, representing differing sub-groups, have been consulted during policy processes, gaining a public voice, among them Soraya Post , who was elected in to the EU Parliament, as a member of the Swedish Feminist Initiative. Several Roma organizations have established a permanent structure, whilst Romani literature in Swedish and Rromani-chib is growing.
There is also reason to believe that the efforts for Roma inclusion in higher education will provide a basis for higher social mobility. The long march for Romani recognition by Swedish institutions has only begun.