“Foreign-born university graduates have a harder time establishing themselves in the labour market than native-born degree holders,” Gudrun Antemar, head of Sweden’s National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) in an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
Antemar cites a new report published by her office on Wednesday which is the first in a series of studies which examine the efficacy of state-sponsored measures meant to improve the ability of foreigners to establish themselves and integrate in Sweden.
According to Antemar, foreigners with university degrees have a higher rate of unemployment and after ten years, only half have found work in fields corresponding to their degree.
Obstacles facing foreign-born degree holders looking to enter the Swedish job market include insufficient information, poor Swedish language skills, and long processing times for certifications and identification documents.
According to the audit office’s findings, it takes an average of 2.7 years for a doctor from outside the EU with a speicialisation to receive a licence to practice in Sweden, while doctors without a specialisation are made to wait six years.
Third-country nurses, meanwhile, must wait an average of 4.8 years before being allowed to work as a nurse in Sweden.
“These people are often relatively young and chances are good they can be active in the Swedish job market for a long time,” writes Antemar.
“It’s a waste of resources to not utilize their competence.”
The Audit Office report includes four recommendations to help reduce the amount of time it takes foreign degree holders to reach the Swedish job market, including improved coordination and follow up for existing measures and a concerted effort by the agencies involved to reduce processing times.
In addition, the government Swedish universities, the National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) and the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to do a better job in providing information about programmes available that allow foreigners to compliment training received abroad with coursework in Sweden so they can receive the necessary professional certifications.
The Audit Office also recommends that the government push county administrative boards to do more to provide Swedish-language classes tailored to specific fields, something which only nine of Sweden’s 21 counties currently offer.
Citing ongoing demographic shifts currently underway in Sweden, Antemar argues that foreign-born degree holders will play a key role in helping Sweden deal with a “massive retirement wave” which will see 160,000 workers retire in the healthcare sector by 2018.
“If Sweden is going to survive the generational shift in the labour market, foreign academic competence must be utilised better,” she wrote in a statement accompanying the report.