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“Give people in suburbs job preference”

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Trying to get a job in Sweden can become a full-time occupation in itself. For people living in “segregated areas” it’s a near impossibility. That’s according to the government’s discrimination investigator who wants to see them given preference in the job market.

The debate page of Wednesday’s Dagens Nyheter covered the question of discrimination, segregation and how best to achieve integration in the job market. Ever the subject of controversy in Sweden it’s now been given an equally contentious solution.

Government discrimination investigator Masoud Kamali is calling for legislation to give those living in segregated areas precedence for jobs if they are as qualified as other applicants.

Writing in Wednesday’s DN Kamali said: “Although democracy has led to increased social mobility, segregation continues permeate through society. Marginalising people and groups with immigrant backgrounds often takes the form of suburban segregation.”

“These areas are stigmatised as a place for ‘the others’ and a foreign segment of the Swedish state. Discrimination in the workplace is among the reasons why there are increasingly deepened divisions between “us” and “them”.

Kamali’s report “Power, Integration and Structural Discrimination,” which was put forward on Wednesday, is founded on experience from people who live in areas of Malmo, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The aim was to document individual cases and general experience of discrimination in Sweden.

“These stories reveal crushed dreams and tragic fate,” he says. “Many haven’t been called to a job interview once despite hundreds of applications. Others have only had sporadic work experience placements, short contracts or been offered work with no educational requirements.”

The report draws up a number of proposals which Kamali says will help remove some of the obstacles which contribute to discrimination in the work place.

Employers should be forced to offer jobs to those living in segregated areas providing they have the same qualifications as other applicants. Meanwhile work experience gained in other countries must be considered as a merit when applying for work in Sweden.

Kamali says methods of comparing foreign qualifications to Swedish equivalents have so far not worked satisfactorily. He therefore demands more effective procedures from the National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) and says the process should not take more than six months.

Furthermore, the report suggests the introduction of “citizen councils” in segregated areas. The councils would help to counteract the mistrust built up against authorities and society in general.

Responding to the report, Integration Minister Jens Orback was not entirely convinced. “It’s good that Kamali raises power and influence questions,” he told news agency TT.

“But I must read this through this very carefully, especially from a legal perspective, before the proposals can be tested.”

Kamali says the proposal shouldn’t be seen as positive discrimination of immigrants. He believes it would benefit everyone, including Swedes, living in these segregated areas.

“The government must act quickly and take drastic measures to combat discrimination and the rising ethnic segregation,” he concluded.

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