Sweden’s “segregated” culture sector

While one-fifth of Swedish residents have some type of immigrant background, less than two percent of executives in the culture sector have a foreign background - a very low figure even in comparison to the rest of the highly segregated Swedish labour market.

A Swedish resident is said to have a “foreign background” if either they or one of their parents was born in a foreign country. This means that within national statistics, the group with an immigrant background includes not only the refugee living in Sweden for six months, but those with one Norwegian or Danish parent – and the Crown Princess.

The statistics are a bit more scary when one realises that the numbers don’t just refer to recent immigrants who can’t speak Swedish – they refer to nearly anyone without a purely Swedish pedigree.

Oscar Pripp, a researcher who will next week present his study on the culture sector to the government, said in Svenska Dagbladet this week that “Sweden is the European leader in segregated labour and housing.”

Pripp explained that a good deal of the problem lies in recruiting methods – within the culture sector, most recruiting is based on networking, which tends to shut immigrants out of jobs. Immigrants who come from non-Western countries, of course, have it the hardest.

Teshome Wondimu, a musician and multicultural consultant who has recently published a study of the cultural life in Stockholm, posited another reason non-Swedes are having some trouble getting their foot in the door: the public, tax-driven culture industry and its lack of interest in a multicultural perspective.

“The state, cities, and county councils should examine institutions and take money from those that don’t reflect Sweden’s population,” said Wondimu.

He argued that commercial culture has done far more to integrate multiple populations in Sweden, but that non-Swedes have not been seen as a natural part of cultural life within the state-financed culture industry.

Oscar Pripp agreed that Swedish institutions should attempt to reflect the Swedish population in their statistics. Such a drastic change seems unlikely to come soon, but foreign cultural workers should perhaps simply pay attention to the statistics to raise their chances of a job.

Pripp found that dance is most open to those with a foreign background, and theatre is the least open – perhaps because new actors and directors are recruited almost entirely through the existing networks.

Out-of-work actors might want to focus on their early dance training if they hope to find a job in Sweden.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet