Foreign-born rule the ranks of Sweden’s bakers

Foreign-born rule the ranks of Sweden's bakers
Emad Bayoumy from Egypt runs the Pyramidbageriet bakery in Dalarna
Sweden's bakers and confectioners make up the profession with the highest proportion of workers born outside of the EU and the Nordic countries, new statistics show.

In 2009, a total of 36.6 percent of Sweden’s bakers, confectioners, and pastry chefs were born outside of Europe, Statistics Sweden (SCB) reported on Friday.

By comparison, a substantially smaller percentage of Sweden’s doctors were born outside of Europe, with only one in four born outside the Nordic countries, and only half of those being born outside the EU.

Martin Lundell, manager at The Baking Foundation (Svenska bageriförbundet), is not surprised by the new statistics.

“I’ve come across people from all over the world in this industry and there is definitely a market for it. We need the labour and as bakery is a craft, it’s easy for people who’ve been a baker in their previous country to continue working with it over here,” he told The Local.

Handren Mevan and his brother are originally from Kurdistan and opened Mormors Bageri in Lund 1996, a bakery that later turned into a chain.

Today they own five bakeries and employ 77 people.

“I wasn’t actually working as a baker back in Iraq,” Mevan told The Local.

“But I was drawn to this profession. It’s creative, exciting and interesting. Besides, it’s in my culture. You’ll find bakeries everywhere in countries like Iran and Iraq, it’s an important thing in our lives to get fresh bread every day.”

Mevan, who studied computer science at university in Sweden and “could have gone in another direction”, added that the popularity of the bakery profession might also be due to a perceived lack of choice among non-European workers in Sweden.

“There are people who come here and feel like they have no choice but to become bus drivers or to open a restaurant,” he explained.

“Working within bakery is another option and probably the best one when it comes to working hours, which is important when you have a family.”

Lundell said, however, that he believes most of Sweden’s foreign-born bakers take pride in their chosen profession.

“No one is hiring people because they feel sorry for them. People are being hired because they are really good at what they do. In addition, the influences from other cultures help the Swedish baking industry to develop.”

The SCB report also found that home-based personal care, cleaners, and assistant nurses were also common occupations.

Overall, 12 percent of employees aged 16-64 in the Swedish labour market were foreign born in 2009.

The percentage of foreign-born in the overall population was 17 percent, SCB said.

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