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New arrivals need more than a 'pat on the head'

New arrivals need more than a 'pat on the head'

Published: 24 Nov 2010 11:33 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Nov 2010 11:33 GMT+01:00

Every morning around 600,000 people who were born in another country go to work. They pay tax and to a great extent sustain the welfare state. Sweden has throughout history been open for people and for cooperation with other countries.

It has made our country richer and I am proud that we have taken our responsibility and shown solidarity, providing a safe haven for people who have fled persecution. But at the same time as many who have come to our country have been successful, we should be clear in the fact that we have significant challenges for integration.

Successful and efficient integration is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Therefore, on December 1st, the government is implementing one of the largest overhauls of Swedish integration policy in 25 years.

People who flee war or serious societal shortcomings do so to seek a better and safer future for themselves and their families. They expect to contribute to society - not to live on welfare.

Today, it takes seven years for the average refugee to find work after they’ve received a residence permit. After three years in the country, only 30 percent of refugees have work. Foreign-born have a 20 percent lower employment rate than the general population, results in school are worse, and there are entire neighborhoods that are in a downward spiral.

It’s a waste of resources and indicative of serious problems in how their initial time in Sweden is organised. The model for receiving newcomers that we've had for a long time has not worked; that’s why we are now reworking the reception of new arrivals.

It’s the system that has had the clear shortcomings, not the individuals who have come to Sweden.

Swedish integration policy has struggled with two main problems.

First, the policy has been characterized by too much handholding. Refugees and immigrants have been treated as weak individuals, although it is often the most driven people who leave their homelands. This is most clearly demonstrated by the fact that, until a few years ago, there was a work ban for those who were asylum seekers in our country.

Second, the policy failed to take into account that those who have come here are different and have different qualifications, backgrounds, dreams and motivations. The policy has not been sufficiently individualised but instead was created on the basis that all immigrants have been in need of the same support. We have had Swedish language classes for immigrants with standards that are too low and that in many cases haven't taken into account people's different circumstances and backgrounds.

The establishment reform, which comes into force on December 1st this year, breaks the handholding mentality and is clearly focused on ensuring that the newly arrived find jobs and learn Swedish quickly. It is therefore very surprising that the Social Democrats have shown themselves willing to try to stop the funding of key elements of the reform.

Freedom of choice, individually tailored initiatives, and more stakeholders are important elements of the new reform. But we also need to change the perception people have of those who leave their country to seek protection and refuge in Sweden. They do not need a pat on the head; rather, they need professional support so that they can, as quickly as possible, learn Swedish, establish themselves in the labour market, and take advantage of the opportunities, rights and obligations that apply in Sweden. Thus, the reform is based on the individual's needs, but also underlines clearly the individual's own responsibility for their future.

The reform's main parts are:

*From day one, new arrivals will be met by efforts to find them work, instead of being taken in by social services. As a result, Sweden’s Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) will take over responsibility from municipalities for coordinating these efforts that will lead to jobs and self sufficiency.

*Individualised efforts from day one. Shortly after a new arrival is granted a residence permit, he or she will meet a representative from the Public Employment Service for a conversation about their establishment in Sweden. Questions about where in the country the new arrival’s skills are needed and what the pathway to work looks like will be discussed early on in order to find a match in both the housing and job markets. The conversation will serve as the basis for a customised establishment plan consisting of individualized efforts.

*Establishment compensation is general and equal for everyone regardless of where in the country the new arrivals live. The compensation is individual and is paid when newcomers actively participate in establishment initiatives - to get the full compensation, the new arrivals must participate in Swedish language classes and other programmes described in their establishment plans. The individualised compensation can lead to greater gender equality through the compensation not being affected by other household income. Pro-work policies are also evident in the system - it is possible to work alongside the establishment reform inititiatives without compensation being reduced.

*New arrivals will be assigned an establishment guide to support them during their early time in Sweden. Compensation for the guide is performance-based, which means that the guide also has an interest in seeing the new arrivals find work and support themselves as quickly as possible. New arrivals will be able to choose a guide themselves.

*Societal orientation classes will be introduced as a compulsory part of new arrivals’ establishment. The purpose of the course is to provide a basic understanding of Swedish society, how it works and what it means to live and reside in Sweden.

Erik Ullenhag

Sweden's Minister for Integration

This article was first published in Swedish in the opinion section of the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper on November 17th, 2010. Translation by The Local.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

14:23 November 24, 2010 by Iraniboy
Well Done!! A great work to acknowledge the problem and solving it instead of ignoring it (far leftis) or blaming and scaremongering(far rights)
14:56 November 24, 2010 by Syftfel
Whether it has made Sweden "richer" is a matter of debate. Think: honor killings, rock bombardment of fire trucks, ghettoization, refusing to integrate, hatred of western values, family reunification hordes being supported by the tax payers. And if it takes 7 years to get a job, i.e. 7 years on the dole, we have way too many. And most are not fleeing persecution and war. Remember Ullenhag, it's a two-way street. While Sweden needs immigrants to secure her future, the social dem chaos has been disastrous by anty measure. Your epos is unclear on what will happen to those who do not make it, or who violate the conditions of their temporary stay. But a well oiled deportation machinery must also be included, even for those who must be sent back to a "war torn" place(whatever that is). High demands, and difficult obstacles, must be placed on those who come to enjoy the fruits of a western civilization, with the freedoms that it involves. So, good luck. And don't cave in to the hysterics of the malodorous open-borders crowd. Immmigration can become a vital source of national strength, but not when it results in a torrential crime wave.
16:20 November 24, 2010 by ISayWhatPeopleThink
No matter how many changes you make to the system, the biggest tool for success is to change the cultural attitude towards immigrants in Sweden by the Swedish people.

Though the governmental integration machine needs tweaking, it still isn't going to run properly until the cultural stigma is removed.

Too many non-refugee degreed professionals such as myself see their resumes tossed in the bin when applying for jobs, no matter how much we network - only to find they hired a Swede with no or less experience.

And that's the problem. The key to integration is giving immigrants a job, and allowing them to support themselves and their families and be productive members of society. The immigrant then has the human feeling of purpose, and the financial ability to not feel like an impoverished second-rate burden. The only way to get the natives to see immigrants for their full potential in the workforce is to get them working right next to all the Svens and Annikas.

So there you have it - the catch 22. You get immigrants to work next to the Swedes to have the Swedes accept them as a part of society instead of the enemy. But so far those lines are still drawn. Swedish society as a whole doesn't want to think of immigrants as equals. Educated immigrants shouldn't be trading their PhDs for a toilet scrubbing brush and mop, but that's how it is in many cases.

Hell, I can't even get that. I'd gladly scrub toilets at this point but so far I haven't even landed a job doing that, even after 10 years of trying. I'm not even valuable enough to do that, except once when I got a cleaning job for the summer, just to replace the 100% native-swede cleaning team at the firm while they were off enjoying their paid vacations.
16:33 November 24, 2010 by calebian22
Sounds interesting. I will wait and see, though. The fact that AF is taking a larger roll is not promising however. They are currently the model of inefficiency.

The below comment is also a bit worrying. Swedish officials need to stop taking all the blame. Personal responsiblity is required of the new residents as well.

"It's the system that has had the clear shortcomings, not the individuals who have come to Sweden."
18:49 November 24, 2010 by Iraniboy
Again well done to this good proposal but unfortunately no matter how hard you try you can not close the mouth of scaremongers and Xeonphobes and comments like @Syftfel and his ilk. Because there always be ONE PERSON or more who don't want to be good and it's good enough for scaremongers to attack all of those who don't look like them based on that person and ignore all those who contributed well !

So as much as these measures will make Sweden better it will never stop the Xenophobes and scaremongers.
20:53 November 24, 2010 by truthworthy
It is sad that this wont apply to people who have been in kommuns before december 1st. They should have switched those people to Employment agency too.
20:57 November 24, 2010 by Swedesmith
Immigrating to another country is tough. Real tough. You leave behind your family, friends, language,...all you have ever known. Many immigrants are leaving war-torn areas and/or tremendous poverty in hopes of having a better life for their children. What's a few scaremongerers or xenophopobes compared to that?
21:12 November 24, 2010 by Jarvilainennen
That seems something worthwile trying out. Is the Sos.Dems´ reaction the traditional "diskutering a million years before definetely maybe a conclusion" or what is it?
06:42 November 25, 2010 by Pacey
Is this for new refugees or people who come here for work too?
11:08 November 25, 2010 by hogar2010
I can't believe that I hear something like this from politician, plan is good and I can't believe it will be realized in reality. Or maybe integration ministry has nothing with immigration office? As I know, immigration office decide about asylum seekers and they organize spying of newcomers, they give permission to those who are rats for them and not to those who really had problem in home country, etc. Who is rat in Sweden he was rat in dictatorship also, but all authorities like rats, therefore they are welcomed in Sweden and fighters are deported back. I asked in 2008 for political asylum and I was spied and I was refused to visit doctor in hospital even I had document that I am asylum seeker, etc. So, this what minister for integration speak, it seems unreal to me, reality is police/spying state and racism.
14:26 November 25, 2010 by skatty
I don't think Swedish integration policy has 25 years of age. I think from beginning there was one ministry of immigration and then integration office added later, probably in early 90s (not quite sure).

I think the two mentioned reason to fail integration policy are correct, however these two are not the only reasons. I can add some other reasons why:

1. Sweden has been a homogeneous country for long time on the edge of Europe with low contact with the people from developing countries as inhabitant. It has high level of Xenophobia and not tolerance to different cultures and behaviours.

2. The nature of immigration to Sweden has mostly based on "guest workers" from different part of Europe. I mean it was job in here, and a need of labour mainly for manufacturing, so immigrants moved here to work as workers. Sweden really has never been a hot spot for immigrants or refugees; it has started in the last 25 years, mainly by refugees and not immigrants!

3. The refugees who have moved to Sweden had many different background meddle-classes and working-classes in large scale started in 80s. A majority of middle-classes could not even imagine ending up in a cleaning job!

4. Swedish job market has never been suitable and adaptive for high educated immigrants and refugees; it generally designed for working-class immigrants to work in factories. There has never been interest to get immigrant for high positions until few years ago and just in few fields.

5. There has been very depressive economy in Sweden, started from early 90 with huge unemployment continued to 94 (this one is locally), it became better in 96 until 2002 and then again to depressive mode from 2002 to present (this one is globally). In other words in 20 years, it had just 5 years of good economy; the rest has been a struggle to survive!

6. There were major political and economical changes in the world, which affect the market. The fall of communism, the EURO and EU, the global market economy and move of manufacturing to countries like China. All these facts affect immigration and refugees around the globe.

You can add some more.
04:16 November 26, 2010 by Njal
Interesting article. Western democracies definitely use open immigration policies as a foreign relations tool (e.g. common rapport with the mid-east/oil producing nations in energy deals as an example, read: Locherbie bomber traded back to Libya and that's not really conspiracy theory, it's just what happened), unfortunately not always to their natural citizen's best interests.

"First, the policy has been characterized by too much handholding. Refugees and immigrants have been treated as weak individuals"

- yes indeed, there were even some who were weak enough to rape Swedish girls and generally run amok.

"although it is often the most driven people who leave their homelands"

-yes this must be true! Unless of course some Western democracy with a 'servile-catamite-liberal-open-door-immigration-policy', allows many more who are not driven, hate us, are supported by us, who's view-point is so incredibly different from ours as to be truly deserving of the title 'Xenophobic', (and yet for you kindness in having them have the pleasant irony of being branded thus by charachters like Iraniboy).

Good to see an effort being made tho', as a direct result of the increase in violence over the past 20 years has been such open /forgiving immigration polices.
07:30 November 26, 2010 by Nika-NM
Njal: if you don't realise that this resetting of the integration policy will address many a perturbed person just like you (it's not vouchsafed only for immigrants, I plead you to realise this, there are other parties who'll benefit from this and one of them is you and the like), it'll be you running amok and maybe raping Iraqi girls.
13:25 November 26, 2010 by Alf Garnett
Yeah, new arrivals also need a ticket back to whence they came
15:41 November 26, 2010 by facistland
Well, good luck with your new integration plans tofu brains!
16:57 November 26, 2010 by Njal
Well Nika, that's fine if it (the new policy), plays out like you hope it does.

Don't really understand your comment about raping Iraqi girls tho', and I've never run amok.
18:22 November 26, 2010 by Schwoebel
Nika is speaking about the groups of middle-eastern men that would seek out Swedish girls to rape because they believe that all Swedish women are whores and deserve it. All while living off the government of these so-called whores.vIt all happened in Malmö if memory serves me right.

At least refugees get their hands held, when I was granted a PUT it was more or less '' Lycka till!''
08:08 November 27, 2010 by aab05001
this is indeed, a good job, but it is insufficioent nevertheless. native swedes also need classes of integration. swedes need to learn to not sterotype others, and to not discriminate and they need to learn about others' cultures more deeply.
18:02 November 27, 2010 by Njal
@ aab5001,

No they (the Swedes), don't.
18:23 November 27, 2010 by jazzIIIlove
@Alf Garnett:

Of course Alf, I may turn back to my country but what will happen to my local employees here when I stop my business here as an employer?
12:12 November 28, 2010 by Mr UK
Foreigners are treated very badly here in sweden, plain and simple. Let me tell you my story.

Several years ago I was warned by my friends not to start an urban music club in Stockholm because the police would come and shut it down, I thought my friends were joking at the time but now I have seen it first hand for myself how racist some sections of Swedish society really are. Sweden prides itself on being this great multi-cultural society, internationally respected for its equality to all people but this is just a myth. Several weeks ago the police began coming to my club which I run every Saturday, they would enter the premises and take a look around and then leave. This is how it all starts and so it was no surprise to me when I got the call from the venue owner telling me that the police had advised him to close down the reggae club or risk losing his alcohol license. Now the police have a very good reason for doing this of course, they believe that all reggae fans smoke marijuana and steal little old ladies handbags when in contrast if they were to take a stroll down to posh Stureplan any weekend they would find enough cocaine to make even a Columbian druglord blush. But of course the police don't have time to go to Stureplan and harass the rich white kids as they are far too busy going around and closing all the reggae clubs. Racism is not just at work when it comes to the behaviour of the Swedish police, it is a tool that keeps people of colour down in every walk of life, from being able to get a full-time job is replaced by low-wage part-time jobs. The rulers must keep the masses down; they hide the class nature of the system by dividing and conquering the masses. Racism is key. Sweden is the last apartheid state in the world and that's a FACT!!! According to research the judicial system is openly rasistic. The judges and lawyers are 95% ethnics Swedes. The Police are 99% Swedish. In Sweden the best place to be sick is in the back of a cab..You can be sure that the driver is an unemployed doctor from Iran. Welcome to Sweden.
13:29 November 28, 2010 by Roy E
@Mr UK,

I'm actually quite comfortably with the local community frowning on your so called 'urban club'. There's absolutely no good that comes from such endeavors. Just hangovers and regrets.

You expect others to compromise their values to accommodate yours. Given that's the case, I'm glad that you are disappointed, because you and your very self centered entitlement mentality have things exactly backwards.
20:45 November 28, 2010 by Mr UK
Roy E,

I suppose that your one of those spoilt little brats that frequents Stureplan with daddies credit card, I think it is YOU that is the self rightous self centered one. Just so you know, my urban club is doing rather well thank you very much, it is always full every week so your notion that 'there's absolutely no good that comes from such endeavors' is so wide of the mark its untrue. So you see, I am far from 'disappointed' my friend. So don't get upset because most of the decent folk actually acknowledge that Sweden is still very racist, you just can't help it. Welcome to Sweden.
22:40 November 28, 2010 by Njal
@Mr UK

So did you or did you not have to close down your reggae club?

Sounds like your club is still open and doing well, so quit complaining.

Again, another story of an immigrant having a go at the Swedes for being too intolerant. Mr UK, just because Swedish people don't want large numbers of foreigners amongst them (very few people, if any, actually do), doesn't mean they are rascist. But if you insist that they are, then perhaps you'll do the Swedish people the 'fairness' of understanding, that in some cases, rascism is justified. Do you remember, or perhaps you choose to forget, the reason of how this came to be? Swedes being targeted in their own land by arrogant, rude peoples.

Ok, so it's not you who are doing these things. But many others are, and considering the fact that they are not native Swedes, there ought to have been far more gratitude. The Swedes for their kindness have been taken advantage of, by their own small group of politicians and a large number of foreigners.

If you don't like their attitudes, leave that's your right, but I guess happily accepting their money hasn't gotten boring yet.
02:17 November 29, 2010 by Roy E
Mr UK,

So you're a whiny little crybaby for the sake of being a whiny little crybaby then.

I'm left even more unimpressed.
08:04 November 29, 2010 by ubpurple05
While I can see both sides of the various criticisms and arguments, I would just say this: I IS their country! Not perfect, but is there a perfect place? Take the U.S., who allowed all types of immigration for hundreds of years, immigrants were marginalized and left to their own devices to pull themselves up out of their predicaments ~ no "social services" to help them. Of course, it is a different day and age, but I do not fault the Swedes for wanting jobs for themselves and their kids over someone else, so they have fixed their attitudes and systems to reflect this.....oh well!! Being on the receiving end is not great, but I see PLENTY of obviously non-Swedes around looking like they are doing just fine. Agreed, those of us with foreign higher education grind our teeth at being frozen out or relegated to sucky menial jobs, but that happens in the U.S. too (can't speak with any authority about other countries, but suspect this happens in the UK as well). Also, just a reminder, the job market pretty much sucks everywhere.

I do agree, however, that the social and personal treatment you receive as a foreigner is wounding ~ it makes you feel more isolated and pushes you to try to keep to your own kind (if there are any). When I see groups of friends having coffee or dinner together I pine for my friends back home and know I will never have that acceptance here in Sweden. At least, not until I have a native-speaker's grasp of Swedish ~~ that should take me about 20 years or so.
12:42 November 29, 2010 by skatty
By reading the resent comments, I try to analyse something in here.

Certainly, it's not easy to be a newcomer in a new country as immigrant. Job has always been in focus of the integration policy.

Finding the right job depends to the market, the need of market, the policy and possibilities build by the society to adapt and accept the labour force. I don't think this part have been managed well enough in Sweden; even for the, who have completed their education in here. Actually, immigrants are identified as parasite, who use social welfare and unwilling to work. When an immigrant or refugee expends years to get a Swedish academic degree, after learning the language, passing through many small and big obstacles, and still have to live on a cleaning job or social welfare, then there is something wrong with the system, and the immigrant or refugee shouldn't be blamed.

In general, to focus on the relation between the immigrant and the society is also critical. Sweden is not an easy country with an easy going people. Immigrants can't build an effective social network with the natives in a meaningful way. I have hardly seen any immigrant to have a Swedish friend, even after 20 years of life in the country; however, most of immigrants from all different countries have better network with each others, maybe not a perfect one but to be alien gives a similar meaning to immigrant, separated from Swedes. Obviously, this kind of attitude have negative effect on immigrants and refugees and there understanding of the social relations in the country, no matter if Sweden accept immigrants and refugees with open arms or not.

I mean the reality is what immigrants are experiencing in connection with the society, and not the quality of life index of a country on the list of UN.
13:15 November 29, 2010 by vb74
Aren't you Swedes glad you bought into this whole multicultural nonsence? Isn't your country more peaceful now? Just remember when it continues to get worse, and it will, make sure you listen to the liberals and blame yourself for the actions of these new "Swedes". Whenever they rape or rob or burn down a school just remember you failed by not doing enough to integrate these people.

What a joke. You let these people move to your nice, little country and they have no gratitude. All they do is take advantage of your people and your system, you guys need to man up and deal with the reality of the situation no matter how nice you are to them all you'll get in return is contempt.
18:01 November 29, 2010 by seymourir
I totally agree with whatyousay...The Swedish society fails to appreciate the essence of integration is not to turn the newcomers into blond Swedes overnight. Do not forget that they are committing the same mistake by abolishing the free education system next academic year for non European students. If the Swedes want to show their respect for human right as they have shown so far, they need to stop this hidden discrimination. What remains to integrate is nothing except masses of generally illiterate newcomers who naturally resist the so called integration.

Integration fails unless multiculturalism is acknowledged.
12:31 November 30, 2010 by Scambaiter
Ignoring the usual bigoted guff from the 6% of the Swedish population + the assorted skulking Internet racists and neocons (usually Americans) who regularly comment on any Local article dealing with immigration, integration etc....

This translation is terrible, full of interference mistakes and classic Swenglish. I thought the Local had turned a corner last year after all the complaints, but it seems I was wrong.
16:02 December 1, 2010 by Tom Dundee
Intergration is a two-way street. There is more resistance to integration from the new comers than there is resistance from the Swedes. You wil find out that you cannot do enough to assimilate some of the recent immigrants.

The rape of Swedish girls is simply a lack of respect for the infidels. A female raped in their culture is subject to an honor killing.
17:16 December 13, 2010 by alecLoTh
At least there is identification and reaction to a need. But ultimately we come down to inter-personal relations. I am over....wayyyy overqualified for all the jobs I apply for, and never get them. The ones I am qualified for, I never get a reply, at parties where the people are mostly Swedish, I speak mostly to the person that invited me, or the other foreigner there(not by choice), I have not one Swedish friend in the years I have lived here, not one, I can go for days without talking to a Swede, thanks to internet employment, shopping etc, I could be living anywhere but Sweden.

I don't see how an integration policy could work for someone like me, I don't need SFi, I don't need a job, I dont need money, I dont need state assistance ...with the help of google translate I can even read my contracts....btw I can read/speak Swedish - but I'm no native.

The only thing I need is weekend bbqs with me mates, a pint at the bar, watching tele sport and booing the opposite team, weekends fishing trips and so on....there is no policy for this kind of thing...but it is the fabric of society. Without this all that remains is the thread.
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Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
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PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
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