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marriage dispute

The proportion of immigrants obtaining spouses from their country of origin is increasing, warns Human Rights Service. Wrong use of statistics, critics say.


It is not given how statistics concerning marriage patterns among the immigrant population are to be interpreted. Nor is there agreement on what these statistics mean for the development of the marriage patterns of immigrants – or for their integration into Norwegian society.

While the Human Rights Service, with the support of figures from Statistics Norway (SSB), warns against the proportion who pick up spouses in the country of origin increasing from 1st to 2nd generation immigrants, the organization is criticized by others – including Statistics Norway itself – for misinterpreting the figures.

The background to this disagreement is the report "Immigration through Marriage", published by the Human Rights Service (HRS) on 17 May this year.

Get Marriage

The report received a lot of media attention in the time after the national day. Maybe not so strange, because according to HRS, this was "the broadest statistical documentation ever in Norway on this form of immigration to Norway".

The main statistics in the report are based on a payment order with Statistics Norway. The starting point is surveys of marriage patterns for 16 central non-Western immigrant groups in the period 1996 to 2003, divided between the 1st and 2nd generation, gender and age.

And these were the main findings, reproduced as HRS presents them in its summary on its website:

  • 87 per cent of 1st generation men married a woman from the same land background. Of these, 64 percent retrieved the wife in the country of origin. Those who have the longest residence time in Norway, Pakistanis and Turks, most often obtain a spouse in the country of origin (about 76 percent for both groups). 9 percent entered into a marriage with a Norwegian woman.
  • 88 percent of 1st generation women entered into marriages with men from the same land background. Of these, 50 per cent obtained the spouse in the country of origin. Most Turkish and Pakistani women practice same-sex marriage (77 and 74 percent, respectively). 8 percent married a Norwegian man.
  • About. 95 percent of second-generation immigrants have married with a spouse with the same country background, and 2 percent have married in the parents' country of origin (the numbers are almost equal for women and men). 75-2 per cent of marriages were with ethnic Norwegian people.

"The loophole is marriage"

As the Human Rights Service presents it, there were several 2nd generation immigrants who married people with the same country background or – even worse – brought their spouse from their parents' country of origin.

Compared with the marriage pattern for 1st generation immigrants, the development according to HRS has gone in the wrong direction: "The situation in the 2nd generation is more dramatic – especially in an integration perspective."

For, as HRS also writes in its presentation of the report:

“It is not easy to get a permanent stay in Norway. The loophole is marriage. Today's Norwegian policy optimally facilitates the conditions for immigration through marriage, which is also exploited – at the expense of especially young immigrants in Norway. Many are simply living visas, but the authorities maintain that the tradition of arranged marriages is voluntary and their culture. ”

HRS then asks the following questions:

"How can it be that we think that 3 out of 4 immigrants in the 2nd generation (who were born and raised here) voluntarily pick up a spouse in their parents' country of origin, at the same time as almost no one marries Norwegians?"

Perhaps the most important finding in the report, HRS explains, is the following: "We are facing an explosion in the number of children and young people in this group who are or will be of marriageable age."

Around 80.000 children and young people aged 0-19 from countries where arranged marriages are widespread are currently registered in Norway. If the policy is not radically changed, this will have dramatic consequences, HRS believes: "Our main concern is that if the current marriage pattern continues, Norway will face a dramatic increase in adulterous marriages and many forced marriages."

- Contradictions and errors

But is it so obvious that the pattern of marriage will continue with today's immigration policy?

Not everyone agrees. And now, four months after the publication of "Immigration through Marriage", more people are protesting against both the conclusions in the report and HRS's use of statistics.

One of the critics is Athar Akram, editor of the Young Muslim magazine. On 15 September, he presented a report entitled "Factual and methodological errors committed by the Human Rights Service in the report Immigration through Marriage".

"In my opinion, the report contains several contradictions and errors of varying severity, which either indicate distortion of reality, exaggeration, incompetence, incompetence, conscious or unconscious embezzlement of facts or a combination of these," says Akram, who criticizes as a private person. , without any organization in the back.

One of Akram's objections, graduated with a degree in Cand. Scient at the University of Bergen, is that he believes that on several occasions HRS operates with incorrect numerical material.

First, HRS has allegedly "renamed a number of figures they have bought from Statistics Norway".

- One of the main points of HRS is that 75 per cent of the 2nd generation immigrants who got married have taken a spouse from their country of origin, and that this is a higher proportion than for those who immigrated to Norway. This is therefore a sign that integration is a failure, they believe. The problem is that HRS never bought figures from Statistics Norway that say how many people have married in their countries of origin. They bought numbers that say how many people got married abroad. This includes both those who married in Denmark, England and other countries from which they do not originate. Thus, the figures for marriages with people from countries of origin are higher in the report than they really are, says Akram.

- Misquoting of numbers

Several examples mean that the editor of Young Muslim is unsure how well you can rely on the figures in the HRS report.

Among other things, he believes he can demonstrate that a "complete calculation error has been committed in operations that are as simple and banal as average calculation, which affects the analysis and conclusion".

Elsewhere in his report, Akram points out that HRS misquotes figures from a Danish survey. The HRS report states that the survey "shows that among those with longer education in the relevant groups, as many as 50% still continue to pick up a spouse in the country of origin".

After checking the Danish report, Akram found that the correct figure was not 50 percent, but 43 percent.

- This means that 57 percent have married in Denmark, says Akram, who believes that this should make HRS rather focus on the fact that higher education actually leads to the marriage pattern going in the right direction.

- Beautiful painting of Denmark

Equally problematic is what HRS omits in its report, Akram believes.

- HRS considers marriage between someone with an immigrant background and someone in their country of origin as “poor” integration, while marriage between someone with an immigrant background and someone who lives in Norway as better integration (but even better if it is an ethnic Norwegian person). But the statistics do not include those who live as cohabitants, which must be a sign of really good integration. And in the case of cohabitation, forced marriage cannot be in the picture either, says Akram.

To illustrate his point, Akram makes a calculation based on a limited number of Statistics Norway figures found on cohabitation among immigrants in four relevant countries (Pakistan, Morocco, India and Turkey).

By adding a conservative number of cohabitation to the number of marriages entered into, he concludes that the percentage of fetches from the country of origin for second-generation immigrants is not 2 percent, as HRS estimates, but 75 percent.

- I therefore believe that HRS's analysis is incorrect, in that the entire cohabitation aspect is not included. The statistics of HRS thus suppress "positive integration forces", which means that both the analysis and the conclusion are not correct, Akram believes.

Another element of the HRS report that the editor of the Young Muslim thinks is serious is HRS's estimate of the new immigration regime in Denmark. According to Akram, HRS refers to a Danish research project that the organization takes to income for its view that the rules work and that the Danes, including the immigrants, are satisfied.

However, the Danish research project reveals a number of problems related to the new rules, as well as criticism from many of the "new Danes".

- As the report to HRS is a document to both the authorities, politicians and the public in an attempt to implement a number of the measures implemented in Denmark, I believe that HRS is also obliged to refer to the negative experiences to give politicians a correct decision basis, Akram believes.

His conclusion is that the shortcomings and errors in the HRS report require that the organization's credibility and integrity should be questioned.

- Basically disagree

Lars Østby, a researcher on demography and living conditions in Statistics Norway, has not read Akram's criticism of the HRS report. He will therefore need to comment in detail on the contradictions between them.

On the other hand, he is well acquainted with "Immigration through Marriage". And his main point of view is Human Rights Services' use of statistics concerning marriages entered into by 2nd generation immigrants, or descendants of two foreign-born parents, which Østby prefers to use as a term.

- The problem is that they only look at those who have married. But the group is very young, and so far few have married. Of course, the few who have married have a low marriage age. We know nothing about what pattern those who marry later will follow, but the fact that they will be older will have an impact both on whether and with whom they marry, says Østby, who has worked with demography for 40 years.

Østby thinks it is problematic that HRS claims that second-generation immigrants reproduce the parental generation's marriage patterns, which in turn creates problems for integration into Norwegian society. The marriage age shows that they do not just reproduce the pattern of the parents, he says.

- I fundamentally disagree with them when it comes to the direction of integration. I believe that integration in important areas is going well, it is slowly going in the right direction, says Østby, who refers to statistics for education, work, income and demographic behavior which he believes supports this.

- Adapt

- When it comes to family formation in Norway, it can be just as important to look at when couples start a family by having children as it is to look at entering into marriage, says Østby, and illustrates with the following example:

Statistics for women aged 20-24 show that 250 out of 1000 Pakistani 1st generation women (who were 16 or older when they moved to Norway) gave birth to children in 2004. For 1st generation women who were younger than 16 years when they moved to Norway , the proportion who gave birth to children last year was in 100 out of 1000.

And for 2nd generation women originating in Pakistan, the proportion who had children was only 60 out of 1000.

- It is the same fertility rate as the average for all women in Norway, and it shows that the immigrant population adapts to the Norwegian fertility pattern. HRS does not include this when they focus unilaterally on marriage, explains Østby, who believes that Athar Akram has a point when he points out that HRS does not include cohabitation in its report, even though it is known that there is not a large proportion of the immigrant population – especially not from the countries HRS is in focus – which practice this form of cohabitation.

But statistics on marriage also show that there are major changes, according to Østby. An example: 60 percent of 1st generation women from Pakistan are married when they are 21 years old, compared to 20 percent of 2nd generation women who are 21 years old. 20 percent of 1st generation men from Pakistan are married at the same age, only 6 percent of 2nd generation men.

- These are clear differences from one generation to the next, says Østby.

- But then HRS is right that these few among the descendants who are married, have a spouse either from the parents' country of birth or from this group of immigrants in Norway. The figures do not indicate that the number who pick up a spouse from another country is of particular importance.

- Growth is declining

The great fear that non-western immigrants will flood our country, illustrated by an "explosion" of ready-to-marry young people and the theory of exponential growth, does not share Østby.

Again, he refers to statistics about the Pakistani immigrant group in Norway, since it has been here for so long that it has many more descendants than anyone else:

- Even though the Pakistani group is growing, the growth through immigration from Pakistan has fallen from about 10 percent to 3 percent in the last twenty years, says the Statistics Norway researcher.

And when it comes to the fear of exponential growth, he refers to the predictions of the 1980s.

At that time, many warned that Norway would be flooded by Chileans, based on the fact that the immigrant group from Chile grew by 44 percent each year for a period. But it did not happen, says Østby.

- We have shown empirically that immigrant groups will not grow indefinitely. The birth pattern adapts to the host country very quickly. The biggest growth now is through immigration of new immigrant groups, the established groups do not have as strong growth, he concludes.

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