More cash for integration promised in spring budget

Sweden's centre-left government wants to invest 500 million kronor ($62 million) in boosting integration, according to a new spring budget proposal.

More cash for integration promised in spring budget

The extra funding is meant to go towards helping local authorities invest 100 million kronor in education, and making it easier for new arrivals in the country to have their foreign degrees assessed by Swedish authorities so that they can get on to the jobs ladder more quickly than today.

The budget also includes another 40 million investment into SFI education (Swedish For Immigrants, which is offered for free to all non-Swedish speakers moving to Sweden) and 18 million to help refugee entrepreneurs get involved in Sweden's vibrant startup industry by starting their own businesses.

“It is of course a challenge, but it is also true that there is a great potential getting more people established [on the jobs market],” Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference on Wednesday morning after the budget announcement.

The government also wants to invest in countering far-right extremism among young people and giving the police extra resources to fight terrorism and increase security at asylum centres, she said.

Sweden took in around 163,000 asylum seekers in 2015, but has found itself under pressure to provide accommodation for all, with integration becoming an increasingly thorny topic in the Nordic nation. On Tuesday new figures showed that half of all unemployed are foreign-born.

The budget – created by the ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition government and backed by the Left Party – also proposes lowering taxes on biofuels and allowing people to make tax deductions on gardening and house removal work as well as IT services.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Sweden's overall unemployment is expected to fall to 6.3 percent by 2017. The National Institute of Economic Research said last month that it believed GDP – one of the key indicators used to gauge the health of a nation's economy – would grow by 3.5 percent in the coming year.

In Sweden, all governments have the chance to revise their annual budget each spring, to adapt to events or economic changes that have emerged since the start of that year. It will need to be voted on by parliament, but is expected to achieve a majority.