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New integration role for Sweden's jobs agency

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New integration role for Sweden's jobs agency
07:05 CET+01:00
The government will present a plan on Thursday to give Sweden’s employment agency a more prominent role in integrating immigrants, according to integration minister Nyamko Sabuni.

The move would mean that immigrants would engage more closely with the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedling) rather than the municipalities in which they live with an aim toward helping them land a job more quickly.

“Municipalities don’t have competence in job recruitment. The state does through employment offices and therefore it feels natural that the Public Employment Service is included in the introduction received by new arrivals. Because it is only they, together with the Migration Board, who can survey how things look nationwide,” Sabuni said to Sveriges Radio.

Sabuni added that the meetings between new immigrants and the state employment office aren’t meant to create jobs but to help people understand where they can find jobs and to provide a helping hand in the integration process to already overburdened municipalities.

“I think municipalities have had too great a responsibility to support and help new arrivals,” she said.

She hopes that the change will help immigrants on what she sees as the most important issues following the issuance of their residence permits: self-sufficiency and how to achieve it.

The government plans to initiate a trial phase in 2009 and 2010 during which employment offices in a few chosen locations will be given the job of carrying out initial conversations with new arrivals and for working with them on creating a plan for establishing themselves in Sweden, including what they want to do, what kind of training they may need, and ultimately where they ought to consider living.

At this time, the government has no plans to punish those immigrants who would rather not follow the plan by withdrawing benefits or other supports, a proposal which is currently under consideration within the Moderate Party.

“I’m not worried that people will say no to getting a job, rather the problem has been that people haven’t been made aware of the alternatives,” said Sabuni.

The conversations between immigrants and employment offices are to be held within one month of receiving a residence permit so that new arrivals start quickly with the process of securing employment, something which Sabuni thinks takes too long under current practices.

“The median time for new arrivals to find a job is seven years and that is just too long. If we’re able to see a group of people who succeed in entering the labour market in a shorter time, then we’ve succeeded,” said Sabuni.

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