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Segregation 'widespread' for Swedish immigrants

Segregation 'widespread' for Swedish immigrants

Published: 18 Dec 2008 16:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Dec 2008 16:32 GMT+01:00

A study released on Thursday by Statistics Sweden (SCB) reports widespread segregation in the fields of education, housing, employment and politics.

In 2008, net immigration into Sweden reached record levels, with more than 100,000 people entering the country and projections that the foreign-born population will reach 14 percent by the end of the year.

The report, released on International Migration Day, illuminates how pronounced the differences in living conditions are between native Swedes and the country’s immigrant populations, particularly those born in Africa and Asia.

"We have seen that people born in these countries are well behind those born in the EU or other Nordic countries. The differences can be seen in education, the job market, and living arrangements," SCB’s Lotta Persson told The Local.

"I was surprised at how widespread segregation was in Sweden," Persson added.

For example, the study shows that foreign-born school children lagged behind their Swedish-born counterparts, with students born in Africa falling far behind their native peers by 9th grade, even if they came to Sweden at a pre-school age.

"The differences in schooling, especially for Africans, shows how they are not eligible in the same way as other groups for upper secondary education, as they are not achieving the right grades, even though we take into account how long they have been in Sweden," said Persson.

"We don't really know why this is.”

Persson theorized the results may be due the fact that many immigrants from Africa and Asia arrive in Sweden as refugees.

“They have a lot of experiences which may negatively affect them," she said, adding that the majority of immigrants from Asia come from Iraq and Iran.

Within the Swedish job market, the study found that the length of time a person has lived in the country was a decisive factor in gaining employment.

For example, employment levels for residents who have lived in Sweden for five years or less were found to be quite low.

However, once a person has been a resident of Sweden for 20 years or more, employment rates improve significantly, although remain lower than those who are born in Sweden, the statistics show.

The lowest employment levels are in the African-born population, who were also shown to more often hold lower-level jobs despite often having high levels of education.

Voter participation within the immigrant population is markedly lower in comparison to the rest of Swedish society, in particular for those from Africa, Asia and non EU European countries.

Housing is another aspect of life in Sweden where segregation of immigrants is very pronounced.

"It is obvious that many Swedish cities, both large and small, exhibit clear housing segregation,” said the report.

Immigrants from the EU, other Nordic countries, North America and Oceania seem to be generally well integrated in Swedish residential areas, with no notable differences with the housing trends of native Swedes.

However, Africans are overrepresented in rental accommodations, with few living in houses or owner-occupied apartments.

There is also evidence of considerable segregation occurring when it comes to the geographical distribution of African and Asian immigrant populations relative to Sweden-born residents.

A full 60 percent of native Swedes live where the majority of the nearby population is also Swedish, with 20 percent living in areas that are virtually 100 percent Swedish.

In contrast, 20 of all foreign-born immigrants live in areas where more than 40 percent of the population comes from countries other than Sweden.

The situation is exacerbated by the active movement by native Swedes away from areas with a high-density of foreigners, particularly those from Asia and Africa, Persson explains.

"We have seen how the native Swedish population is moving out from those areas where many immigrants live," she said.

Whilst the results may be seen as cause for concern in a country with an ever-increasing foreign-born population, the report does not draw any specific conclusions as to why Sweden is becoming such a segregated society.

Talking to The Local, Persson points to trends in Swedish society as the one possible explanation

"It has been found that immigrants from Iraq and Iran are not treated very well by the Swedish population,” she explained.

"They are definitely discriminated against in society. This discrimination may be one of the reasons for segregation, as it might be more difficult for them to get loans or to buy a house."

A spokesperson for Swedish Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni refused to comment on the report, saying the minister had not yet had time to review its findings.

Jennifer Heape (jennifer.heape@thelocal.se)

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