The situation is amplified by the fact that a number of local authorities are actively employing people born abroad, according to an as yet unpublished report seen by news agency TT.
“Many of those we’ve spoken to in rural and sparsely populated areas believe that the it’s worth doing things on a ‘micro’ scale,” said Patrik Johansson, a researcher at the Swedish National Rural Development Agency.
“As an individual you’re not invisible, and it is easier to get a job.”
The agency will publish the report on Tuesday and it will be handed over to the government just after Christmas. The findings were based on figures from Statistics Sweden as well as employment offices in rural areas.
The numbers show that people with a foreign background – born abroad, or with one or both parents born abroad – are more likely to find work in a district where unemployment is highest among Swedes. And vice versa.
In Sweden’s densely populated urban areas 58% of immigrants are employed, compared to 79% of ethnic Swedes.
But in rural areas, 61% of immigrants have jobs, while the figure for ethnic Swedes drops to 76%.
According to the agency, the difference can partly be explained by the origins of immigrants in different areas. In the rural districts, ‘foreign background’ is more likely to mean one of the Nordic countries. Those immigrants will usually have been in Sweden longer and have a higher level of education.
Another factor is that those living in rural areas are more likely to have moved to Sweden to be with family members.
“Then you get into an established network of contacts,” said Johansson.
But at the same time, rural areas are often underpopulated and additional labour is valued more highly.
“They use the resources which exist and are happy when more arrive,” said Johansson.