What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Social classes and integration

I just came across an article about the Danish politician Asmaa Abdol-Hamid who runs for 'Enhedslisten', the Danish Red-Green Alliance. I am very impressed by her commitment to improving the rights of minorities and marginalized groups in society. She has, at the age of 26, accomplished quite a lot socially and politically and I am sure we will hear more from her in the future.

This post is motivated by something she has said which pretty much sums up my take on the debate about integration and ethnic minorities:

"I don't like the word integration. Everyone uses it without being able to define it clearly. Ethnic minorities are not a problem in itself. I prefer to talk about social classes and take a look at citizens' class background instead of their ethnic identity when we need to give reasons for the lack of integration in Denmark." (my translation from Danish)

Applying a class view provides us with new explanations and lines of action. If we remove focus from religion and culture we can instead turn to poverty and other class issues as explanations for what we refer to as 'integration problems'. Some of the poorest and most marginalized people in Denmark are found among the ethnic minorities. An example is child poverty - the poverty risk for minority children is three times higher than for ethnic Danish children.


Balder said...

What a bunch of shit!

Immigrants who come to Denmark are immediately awarded with an economic status most of them could only dream of in their country of origin.

Many unemployed Brits or Germans could only dream of the kind of money immigrants get from the government here in Denmark.

The difference between low wage jobs and social security is minimal, especially for families with children.

A certain number of immigrants; those with large families actually receive more money from the government than they would be able to earn from normal jobs.

Asmaa Abdol Hamid is a muslim fundamentalist who only recently changed her views (when speaking in public) so they appear more acceptable for her extreme leftwing party.

Miss Hamid refuses to shake hands with men and wears a headscarf at all times.

R. said...


Thank you for your comment.

As I see it you make the following two arguments:

1. Ethnic minority groups are not poorer than other social groups.

That is not true. Ethnic minorities are a lot more vulnerable with respect to poverty. Please see these reports from the Danish nstitute of Social Research:

Fattigdom og social eksklusion, 2005:

"Enlige mødre, arbejdsløse kontanthjælpsmodtagere og etniske minoritetsgrupper, der i forvejen tilhører særligt sårbare grupper i befolkningen, er især udsat for både fattigdom og social eksklusion."

URL: http://www.sfi.dk/sw18778.asp

Børnefattigdom i Danmark, 2002:

"I lighed med tidligere år gælder det også i 2002, at børn med etnisk minoritetsbaggrund
har en markant højere risiko for at havne under de benyttede fattigdomsgrænser. Fx
har børn med indvandrerbaggrund den højeste risiko for at havne under den implicitte
og de relative fattigdomsgrænser"

URL: http://www.redbarnet.dk/Admin/Public/DWSDownload.aspx?File=Files%2fFiler%2fDanmark%2fIndhold_Fattigdom.pdf

2. The argument about social class is not valid because Asmaa Abdol-Hamid cannot be trusted (due to being a Muslim?)

Arguing that social class being a cause for lack of integration is not unusual. It just happened that Asmaa Abdol-Hamid has said it. In that sense it is irrelevant what you or I think about her character or religious beliefs. Go for the ball, not the man! :-)

By stating this I am not implying that I doubt Asmaa Abdol-Hamids character or motives. But whether she is a fundamentalist or not (which I by no means think she is) is an entirely different discussion.

Balder said...


00:33 18-07-2007

@R. Thank you too

R:"That is not true. Ethnic minorities are a lot more vulnerable with respect to poverty."

Strictly spoken the report may be right.

But how to define poverty? Since you are addressing the article to foreigners (using English) this could be understood in a great variety of ways.

There are not that many countries where the social security system is as generous as it is in Denmark, so the word "poverty" is very misleading here.

There is no way the economic status of any immigrant in Denmark could be compared to the economic status of immigrants in Paris France for example.

What is called "poverty" in the Danish report is incomprehensible luxury in most countries in Europe.

The report does not take into account several other points: Illegal work while receiving benefits is very widespread in immigrant communities in Denmark.

One of the reasons for this is that they have a great opportunity to work illegally in immigrant businesses; shops, pizzerias, bazaars, taxi and the like. I know this not only from newspaper reports and official research, but also from information volunteered to me by immigrants from Vietnamese / Chinese origin as well as representatives for a greater part of the muslim community; Pakistanis, Iraqis, Turks and the like. They have their own cheaper hairdressers and other services on the inside of the immigrant community. They are also very good at getting the last bit of extras out of the social system; the question is here on what basis the research is conducted and if such variables are taken into account.

Also many immigrants have ways to cut costs, like sharing limited space with more people, larger families, a networks dealing with cheap and stolen products, no tradition for letting children partake in out of school activities that cost money. Many immigrants don't use expensive community services like nurseries, kindergartens and similar institutions for older children, because one or both parents are unemployed.

It could be discussed exactly how much the afore mentioned points contribute to the total immigrant income, but it would certainly make a substantial difference to the overall picture. Also the sentence you quote from the institute says something about "relative poverty lines". Note the "relative" in this communiqué from the institute, which is also talking about "a higher risk".

You also speak of "social isolation" or exclusion. I am not a sociologist, but it is apparent to anybody with some experience with immigrants that their social network usually is stronger than that of Danes from low wage groups, and perhaps also than that of to Danes in general.

The isolation is only true pertaining to the larger Danish society. This may be a problem for the do gooders from the Danish Social Research Institute, but it rarely is a problem for the immigrants themselves. It is a parallel society.

My remarks about Asmaa were meant to moderate the rosy picture you drew up in your post.

This girl is being instructed to "say the right things" by clever left wing puppeteers now.

To complete the overall picture I may mention that there is a very long list of muslim immigrants involved in politics who ended their careers caught in double speak, lies and manipulations used to hide their true convictions. Tagiya; the right for muslims to lie to or deceive non muslims is the theory, and as we have learned at least a common practice as well in these circles.

What we have heard from Asmaa in the past indicates that this probably is not unlikely to be the case here too. Asmaa is against natural Scandinavian nudity and for sex segregation.

A fine diamond in the crown of the formerly religion hating Christianity hating, equality preaching extreme left of which Asmaa Abdol Hamids party Enhedslisten is a fine example.

R. said...


As I understand it you are making the following two points regarding the social classes argument:

1. Poverty is relative and poor people in Denmark should be happy about their situation, because it can be worse in other places (such as France)

You can say that of course. Then we do not have to be concerned with poverty at all in Denmark.

I on purpose write 'poor people' instead of ethnic minorities. Because I assume that that you would have the same opinion about other social groups which are considered poor by Danish standards? Such as single parents and unemployed, unskilled workers? They are also worse off in other countries.

2. Immigrants work illegally (a lot), so they are not really poor, but still appear in the poverty statistics.

That is quite a claim. Can you provide URLs to the studies which are suppose to reach this conclusion? To me it sounds more like a prejudice. Even if illegal work is more common, there is still a long, long way from that to concluding that poverty is not a more widespread problem among ethnic minorities.

I also have a remark regarding your take on the expression 'social inclusion' which is used in one of the reports from SFI. Social inclusion is not synonymous with social isolation. It is defined as this:

"Social eksklusion refererer her til ikke-deltagelse på forskellige centrale levekårsområder i samfundet, fx faglige/politiske aktiviteter og fritidsaktiviteter, eller til mangel på sociale relationer i det hele taget."

With this definition in mind I still consider the report's conclusions on ethnic minorities being more likely to experience social exclusion.

Lastly, a comment on your take on Asmaa Abdol-Hamid and her character:

It is my experience that Asmaa Abdol-Hamids opinions have been, by the media and upset political opponents, associated with many opinions which are not her own. The public debate about her person has been marked by a lot of prejudices and stereotypes. I would very much like to know on which basis you know that Asmaa Abdol-Hamid is pro sex segregation?

R. said...


With this definition in mind I still consider the report's conclusions on ethnic minorities being more likely to experience social exclusion valid.

R. said...

and 'social inclusion' is of course 'social exclusion'... now I will stop correcting ;-)