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Working Together: Skills and Labour Market Integration of Immigrants and their Children in Sweden

image of Working Together: Skills and Labour Market Integration of Immigrants and their Children in Sweden

This review is the first in a new series on the skills and labour market integration of immigrants and their children. With 16% of its population born abroad, Sweden has one of the larger immigrant populations among the European OECD countries. Estimates suggest that about half of the foreign-born population originally came to Sweden as refugees or as the family of refugees and Sweden has been the OECD country that has had by far the largest inflows of asylum seekers relative to its population. In all OECD countries, humanitarian migrants and their families face greater challenges to integrate into the labour market than other groups. It is thus not surprising that immigrant versus native-born differences are larger than elsewhere, which also must be seen in the context of high skills and labour market participation among the native-born. For both genders, employment disparities are particularly pronounced among the low-educated, among whom immigrants are heavily overrepresented. These immigrants face particular challenges related to the paucity of low-skilled jobs in Sweden, and policy needs to acknowledge that their integration pathway tends to be a long one. Against this backdrop, Sweden has highly developed and longstanding integration policies that mainly aim at upskilling immigrants while temporarily lowering the cost of hiring, while other tools that work more strongly with the social partners and the civil society are less well developed and need strengthening.

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Strengthening the demand for migrant skills in Sweden

Demand for low-skilled workers is weak in Sweden. And while all lowskilled workers face this paucity of low-skilled jobs, migrants face particular hurdles. Private sector employers may be uncertain of how to assess qualifications and experience obtained abroad, and prefer to avoid the risk; they may be reluctant to hire migrants due to concerns over their productivity; or they may simply choose not to hire immigrant workers on the basis of discrimination. This chapter investigates these constraints on the demand for migrant skills as well as the policy responses that attempt to tackle them including wage subsidies and anti-discrimination policies.

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