Sweden looks to tackle immigrant women jobs challenge

The Swedish government on Monday announced a new inquiry aiming at finding ways to make it easier for immigrant women to enter the labour market.

Current numbers show that only a fifth of women originating from outside of Sweden are working within three years of moving to the country, which is an alarmingly low number, argues Sweden’s Minister for Integration, Erik Ullenhag.

The comparable figure for immigrant men is 50 percent after the same period of time.

The reason for the big difference is explained by a number of different factors, including a lower level of education, more domestic responsibility, less work experience, as well as the ability to claim parental leave benefits.

“One of the biggest integration and equality challenges today is to make sure immigrant women can be self sufficient,” Ullenhag said in a statement.

“As it is now many, of these women risk getting stuck in long-term unemployment and in a financially precarious situation.”

Researchers from the Expert group for public economics (Expertgruppen för studier i offentlig ekonomi) recently pointed out that parental leave benefits are a “woman-and-poverty trap” which can be used as a form of social welfare benefit for years.

People who come to Sweden with toddlers can get parental leave benefits even if the child is not an infant, and the grant is equivalent to what the parent would get if participating in Swedish language classes.

This might lead to women choosing to stay at home, with the effect that both the mother and her children learn Swedish at a slower pace.

“The recently implemented establishing reform has a clear equality focus,” Ullenhag said.

“But we need to do significantly more to give immigrant women power over their everyday lives through earning their own salary.”

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