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IMMIGRANT

Housing shortage sinks immigrant jobs efforts

Of the 4,000 people who’ve arrived in Sweden since December 2010, the Swedish Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) has only been able to find work for ten.

No more than 50 new arrivals are currently working within an establishment plan, to integrate them into Swedish society, according to a new report.

The report, presented by the Swedish Employment Service on Tuesday, shows that a lack of housing in many areas often becomes a major hurdle for newly arrived immigrants as they try to settle in and find employment in Sweden as quickly as possible.

To make matters worse, the report shows that housing is hardest to find in the areas where jobs are available.

The Swedish Employment Service’s assignment is to direct new arrivals to the counties where there is work. But this has proved tricky in practice.

“We’re governed by housing availability far too much,” said the Employment Service’s Marie Linell-Persson to news agency TT.

The Employment Service also pointed out that many are forced to wait a long time to gain access to Swedish language classes, SFI.

A further complicating factor for immigrants’ establishment in Sweden is the long wait for child care.

Parents, who must wait a long time for a kindergarten spot, have difficulties participating in the Employment Services’ programmes.

The Swedish Employment Service has been responsible for the integration of new arrivals since last winter.

”It’s an important reform, because it signals that the new arrivals are an important resource for us,” said director-general Angeles Bermudez Svankvist.

The Employment Service’s tasks include giving newly arrived immigrants preparation for work in Sweden, charting education and skills, validating foreign university degrees and securing internships as well as Swedish language classes.

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ARBETSFÖRMEDLINGEN

Expat puts ‘Faith’ into starting travel business

US expat Faith George tells The Local about how she mastered the Swedish language, seeing the positives in being made redundant, and how she plans to show Swedes another side of the United States.

Expat puts 'Faith' into starting travel business
Faith George. Photo: Private

Faith George, 47, made the move from the US to Malmö back in 2002 to be with her Swedish sambo (registered partner). Twelve years on she hasn't looked back, having established herself in Sweden as an in-demand businesswoman. 

"I started off by doing SFI (Swedish for Immigrants language course), and it took me about a year before I found my first job," George told The Local.

"To bring in some extra money I started up my first business in 2005, doing proofreading and translation services in English for several companies in the area."

Her early forays into running a business were successful, but in 2008 she wrapped the firm up for other pursuits.

Like many skilled foreigners in Sweden's south, she landed a job with ST-Ericsson, initially working as a technical writer before taking on added responsibilities with the company.

In late 2013 George was laid off but decided not to let that be the end of it. Instead, she used her time away from the workplace to pursue another ambition – establish her own travel agency.

"I was fortunate that my redundancy package was quite generous, so that enabled me to really investigate what I wanted to do. Back in the States I used to work in the travel industry so it was something I wanted to pursue again," she said.

Establishing a business, such as a travel agency, in Sweden requires a great deal of form-filling, particularly in regards to licensing. And it's not cheap.

Fortunately for George, she was approved for a financial benefit known as 'Starta Eget Bidrag'  (start your own business grant) to help get her new company off the ground.

This is a benefit available to a limited number of people every year who have been unemployed for some time before starting their companies. The grant is intended to help cover living costs while setting up the company. Those interested can apply for the benefit from their local employment agency (Arbetsförmedlingen).

"For me it is very important as it is a start-up company. In Sweden you get a lot of support when it comes to establishing a business," she says. 

George hopes her prior knowledge of the travel industry will help her new agency succeed. She has chosen to target Swedes who are eager to see another slice of the US, as opposed to the standard fare usually offered.

"There is so much more to see, and for me the focus is on a market where there is a good niche. For instance, our main package is a trip to Louisiana, an area I know very well, and visitors will get to see something different with the whole Cajun experience," George explained.

See tips in English from the Employment Agency for starting your own company

"Another package is going to be heading out to Washington State. We don't want to do the major locations as those are well catered for by existing travel agencies," she says.

Setting up a travel agency in 2014 may seem a bit strange considering how much is done online, often cutting out the middleman.

"There is a lot of competition out, there but having done my market research, there is are opportunities. Swedes love to travel, especially to the US. If you ask somebody they will say with a lot of enthusiasm 'Oh I've been there.' There is plenty of interest is going to America," George said.

Communicating with the Swedes isn't a problem for the US native, as she has long got to grips with the Nordic tongue.

"At the start the language barrier was the hardest. I used to feel like I was in kindergarten when I was trying to speak to people. Now my Swedish is really good. I had to be sure of my level of Swedish before I could really approach the idea of starting this new business."

It's not just Swedes who want to visit America that she sees as her potential market. The businesswoman is also putting together a package for Americans who want to explore southern Sweden.

Right now George is just waiting for the green light for her business to go live. Her Swedish sambo has created the website and is also chipping in with some financial backing.

She also has office space sorted, which is provided as a member of a Malmö start-up incubator.

"The intention is to be up and running in August and really get the business moving then," George concluded.

Need inspiration? Read more stories about My Swedish Career

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