Statsminister Stefan Löfven på plats vid toppmötet i Bryssel.
Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven at the Burussels summit. Photo: Jan Andersson/Swedish Radio

Differing views within Swedish government on EU child-benefit plan

"We will look into it"
2:54 min

Top Swedish politicians have given conflicting statements on whether Sweden will adopt the limits to migrants’ benefits that were introduced late Friday night.

The UK’s EU deal, reached after two days of talks in Brussels, gives member states the power to limit some migrants' benefits. While Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven told Swedish Radio News that his government will not suggest any changes to child benefits for migrants, his party colleague, Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson, said Sweden may consider changing its policy.

One key point of the agreement signed Friday night is that child benefits for the children of EU migrants will now be paid at a rate based on the cost of living in the migrant’s home country. This is applicable immediately for new arrivals and from 2020 for existing claimants.

UK prime minister David Cameron originally wanted a complete ban on migrants sending child benefits abroad, but he had to compromise after some eastern European states rejected that proposal and also insisted that existing claimants should continue to receive the full payment.

The new rules mean that a Polish national who works in the UK and has children back home will only get child benefits at a rate based on the cost of living in Poland.

The deal – which includes a series of other reforms - makes it possible for all EU countries to cut child benefits to foreign workers whose children are living overseas. But Sweden has said it will not do so – at least not for the time being.

Speaking to Swedish Radio News’ reporter in Brussels on Friday night, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said countries will have to decide for themselves how to act, but his government, Löfven said, will not suggest any changes to child benefits for foreign workers.

However, Swedish Radio News also asked Minister for Finance Magdalena Andersson for her take on the matter and she said Sweden may consider changing its policy. She said: “Of course if this possibility exists and many other countries introduce it, then naturally we will also look into whether it is reasonable to do so in Sweden, too.”

However, Andersson also added that a reform regarding child benefits for migrants’ children would not bring any substantial revenue to the Swedish state.

“In relation to what child benefits cost in total,” she said, “we are talking about very small amounts. And at the same time, the changes would involve a heavy administrative burden.”

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