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New funds to integrate Sweden's immigrants

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New funds to integrate Sweden's immigrants
08:51 CEST+02:00
The government has announced plans to spend close to 2 billion kronor ($297 million) to help Sweden's newly arrived immigrants and refugees integrate more quickly.

"It takes on average more than seven years for an adult refugee to find work in Sweden," write finance minister Anders Borg and integration minister Nyamko Sabuni in an article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

"Employment among the foreign born is around 10 percent lower than among those born in the country, and open unemployment is more than twice as high. These are devastating numbers."

According to the ministers, getting more foreign born workers into the labour market and doing so faster is a key to reducing the dependence on welfare payment which the government believes contributes to immigrants' social exclusion.

The government plans to present a proposal next spring on the management, shape, and financing of refugee intake to Sweden.

A total of 920 million kronor ($136.6 million) has been set aside in the budget to fund reforms starting in 2010.

"[The pattern of] social exclusion will be broken. The risk of people who come to Sweden being relegated to passivity and welfare dependence will be reduced," say the ministers.

Borg and Sabuni say the initiative's aim is to give the individual increased responsibility and stronger incentives to quickly establish themselves in the labour market.

“When newly-arrived refugees support themselves though social welfare instead of payments given as a part of an introduction program [for refugees], it can be a major obstacle to creating an incentive to work. And as a general rule those who work more lose out, krona for krona, in their balance of social welfare payments. That someone who starts to work loses the corresponding extra income is unacceptable,” they write.

The plan calls for 51 million kronor to be set aside annually to fund complimentary higher education courses between 2009 and 2011 for foreign academics, as well as healthcare and educational professionals who have credentials from other countries.

A total of 61 million kronor will also be used to improve the quality of teaching at Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) language training courses.

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