Immigrants ‘need more help’ to integrate in Sweden

Immigrants to Sweden don't get effective help to integrate into society. The disproportionately large number of immigrants who do not have a job should be given better support to find regular employment, argues a new government report.

The report, commissioned by the government from academic Stefan Eriksson, proposes a range of changes to help newcomers and their families find their feet in Sweden. It portrays a bleak situation for many immigrants, of which only 62 percent aged between 16 and 64 are in employment or education, compared to 76 percent of people born in Sweden.

“There is ample evidence that people with foreign backgrounds currently face significant difficulties on the labour market,” the report says.

Improving the free SFI Swedish courses is one way of fixing the problem, the report says. Too many people cut short their studies, and many of those who complete the course still don’t speak sufficiently good Swedish, it argues.

SFI should be made more flexible, connections between the course and working life should be encouraged, and streaming of students according to previous knowledge should be improved, the report suggests.

Programmes to introduce immigrants to the Swedish labour market should also be improved, the report suggests, making them better tailored to individuals’ abilities and previous experience. Work is also needed to improve the educational performance of children with immigrant backgrounds, who tend to get worse results than Swedes.

Immigrants are also held back by lack of knowledge about Swedish society, and by lacking the informal networks through which many Swedes find jobs. But they are also discriminated against, for example by employers not recognising foreign qualifications.

Sweden’s failure to integrate immigrants into the labour market could have a major impact on society, as the proportion of Swedes of working age is set to fall. Sweden will need to bring more immigrants into the labour market in order not to face labour shortages, the report says.