Official figures hide youth unemployment – report

The level of youth unemployment in Sweden is wildly underestimated in official figures, according to a report presented on Monday by the New Welfare Foundation, an independent think tank.

Statistics Sweden says that ‘open unemployment’ among young people aged 16-24 stands at 11%. But according to the report ‘Ole, dole, arbetslös’, the true figure is closer to 30%.

In the run-up to the election in 2002, Prime Minister Göran Persson promised to halve youth unemployment. Instead, says the author of the report, Esra Karakaya, joblessness has increased by 30%.

“Unemployment among the young is far worse than the impression given by the official statistics. It’s not 10% who are without jobs, it’s almost 30%,” she said.

Karakaya argues that the official figures present a narrow definition of unemployment which excludes key groups of job seekers.

“The most important group is people who become full time students while they are looking for jobs,” she told The Local.

“Pretty much every other country includes these people in unemployment figures – except Sweden.”

Sweden has excluded this group from the official unemployment rate since the 1980s.

Karakaya said that two other groups who are “in reality unemployed” are those in labour market initiatives and many on long term sick leave.

“According to the Social Insurance Administration, 60% of those on sick leave say they would be able to work if their workplace conditions changed. But the rigidity of the labour market is a big obstacle,” she said.

While the report focused on the youth unemployment, the problem of under-reporting is true at all age levels of the labour market, according to Karakaya:

“It’s absolutely the case throughout the job market. The real rate of unemployment is about 16.5% rather than the 5.3% which is reported. But it’s worse among the young.”

Louis Roper