Western immigrants earn more than Swedes

Immigrants to Sweden from wealthy countries earn more on average than Swedes themselves, according to a new report by union organization LO. The situation is very different for recent immigrants from Africa, South America and Asia, who only earn on average 83 percent of the wage of an average Swede.

In 2003, the average wage for native-born Swedes was 22,400 kronor a month. For immigrants from Africa, Asia or South America it was 18,500, while for immigrants from wealthy OECD countries (western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan), the average wage was 24,600 kronor, or 110 percent of the average Swede’s wage.

The pattern was mainly due to high wages among managerial or professional people from western countries. They earned on average 29,500 kronor a month, compared to 26,500 for Swedes. For people in manual or lower-ranking clerical jobs, the average wage was 18,000 for Swedes and people from OECD countries, although it was lower for people from eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

While immigrants overall have lower wages than Swedes, those who came to Sweden in the 1970s break the pattern. They earn on average 300 kronor more than native Swedes.

Erland Olausson, first Vice President of LO, said this difference was due to the reasons that people move to Sweden.

“In the 1970s we had people migrating for jobs. Today, a large proportion are refugees,” he told news agency TT.

One thing that all immigrant groups had in common was that they were underrepresented on the job market. Some 80 percent of Swedish-born people were employed or self-employed in 2003, compared to 65 percent of western immigrants and 55 percent of people from Africa, Asia and South America.

Overall, 9.4 percent of people born abroad were unemployed, compared to 4 percent of Swedes.

Olauson said the lower overall wages for most immigrants was not down to discrimination, but due to the fact that many such workers were in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs.

“Discrimination occurs more often at the time of employment,” he said, arguing that trade unions should have more influence over recruitment processes.

Olauson also wants binding agreements between employers and unions when jobs are advertised, which set out the skills demanded by the job. He argues that this would prevent people being chosen on the basis of what they are called or where they come from.

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