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EMPLOYMENT

Think tank: cut wages to boost immigrant jobs

The government should work to cut wages in low paid jobs so that more new Swedes can get into the labour market, according to Swedish free market think tank Timbro.

Think tank: cut wages to boost immigrant jobs

Swedes born overseas are often in work, but not as often as Sweden-born citizens and Timbro has argued in a new report that high wages for jobs requiring little or no formal qualifications are a problem.

“More would have found work if there were jobs with lower wages than there are today,” said Jenny von Bahr at WSP Analys & Strategi, the firm commissioned to compile the report.

According to von Bahr the reasoning has its basis in elementary economic theory – cut the price of something then you increase demand.

“The government has ignored this. They have had a one-sided focus on various reception measures,” she said, referring to assistance offered to the jobless in the form of training and education in order to break into the labour market.

When asked if a person should be able to survive on their salary, she replied:

“You have to have your first job at some point. Integration increases if you get a job, even if your first is not really well paid,” von Bahr said.

Lasse Thörn at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen – LO) did not agree with Timbro’s analysis.

“Lower incomes cut purchasing power. If employers have goods to produce they can manage it with the base level salaries that are in place today.”

The government has proposed a number of other measures to help more immigrants find work and to improve their integration into Swedish society.

“The discrepancies in the employment level between foreign born and those born in Sweden went up to 11 percent in March 2011,” wrote migration minister Tobias Billström, integration minister Erik Ullenhag and labour market minister Hillevi Engström in an opinion article published on Monday in the Sydsvenska Dagbladet newspaper.

“That difference is unacceptable.”

In the article, the ministers outline a number of initiatives to improve employment prospects for immigrants, including improved Swedish language training, tax breaks for low-income workers, as well as taking a closer look at how Sweden’s welfare system is shaped.

On Monday, the three ministers are participating in a full-day seminar to discuss employment among overseas-born Swedes.

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EDUCATION

Sweden considers expanding mother tongue education

More students should study their mother tongue in Swedish schools, according to a proposal delivered to the government.

Sweden considers expanding mother tongue education
File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT
Students in Swedish schools who have a parent or legal guardian whose native language is something other than Swedish are offered courses to help them strengthen their skills in the other language. 
 
Roughly 280,000 students are eligible for this education but only approximately 170,000 are actively participating in the courses. 
 
According to Nihad Bunar, a professor of youth studies at Stockholm University who has been appointed by the government to address this issue, part of the reason the participation is so low is that the mother tongue courses are often held at the conclusion of the regular school day. 
 
“The consequences of this are obvious: tired students who have competing free-time activities. There is also a general perception that the subject is not as important as other school subjects,” Bunar said. 
 
Additionally, schools are not required to offer mother tongue classes if there are fewer than five students who would participate in the classes. 
 

 

 
A commission report that has been submitted to the government calls for making mother tongue education a more integrated part of the school day and offering it to smaller groups. The report also suggests offering the classes via remote learning, as a lack of qualified teachers in other languages is also a significant problem. 
 
The report points out that students who are given the opportunity to develop their mother tongue also tend to develop better Swedish language skills and perform better in school all-around. 
 
Education Minister Gustav Fridolin welcomed the report’s recommendations. 
 
“Studying one’s mother tongue can strengthen learning in all students. Therefore, more students should receive mother tongue education and the quality of the education and the curriculum should be strengthened,” he said in a government press release. 
 
The largest languages in mother tongue education in Sweden are Arabic, Somali, English, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Persian, Kurdish, Spanish, Finnish, Albanian and Polish.
 
The Local would like to hear from parents whose children are involved in a mother tongue programme at their local school. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to participate in a follow-up article. 
 
The recommendations on mother tongue education come just a few months after a report carried out by OECD at the request of the Swedish government, suggested that Sweden can and must do much more to help immigrant children perform better at school
 
That study noted that 61 percent of first-generation immigrant students do “not attain baseline academic proficiency”. The number decreases to 43 percent for second-generation immigrant students and that 19 percent differential is well above the OECD average of 11 percents. 
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