While Sweden's unemployment on the whole continues to slowly fall, rising numbers of foreigners in the Nordic country are struggling to find work. A total of 21.8 percent are currently unemployed, according to fresh figures from Sweden's Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).
“It is of course a challenge for Arbetsförmedlingen, because so many of those come to us are quite far from the labour market. They have a longer distance to go to be able to get a job, and require more assistance,” the authority's chief analyst Mats Wadman told the TT newswire.
“At the same time it's an opportunity, because we do need some labour immigration,” he added.
At the end of October around 372,000 people aged 16-64 were registered as job seekers with the Employment Service, down by some 800 from the previous year, bringing Sweden's total unemployment to 7.8 percent.
But the number of foreign-born unemployed has gone up by 17,000 to 183,000 people. This is double the number there was in 2008, when Sweden was hit by the global financial crisis.
Wadman estimates that the trend will continue as the Nordic country continues to accept unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers. Up to 190,000 refugees are expected to arrive in Sweden by the end of the year.
“The heavy influx right now won't be noticeable at the Employment Service until at some point next year. It takes time for them to get residence permits, and it's not until then that they come to us,” he said.
“We're in ongoing discussions with the government about how much and what type of resources we need.”
Sweden was criticized by the International Monetary Fond (IMF) earlier this autumn for having one of the highest differences in employement levels between natives and immigrants in the OECD area (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
“The Swedish labour market has become increasingly polarized. Although overall employment is high, unemployment falls heavily on the low-skilled and the foreign-born,” noted the IMF in September.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has previously insisted he will achieve his goal of Sweden having the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020. However, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson noted in an interview with the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper earlier this month that his promise was looking increasingly “harder to reach”.