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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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The supply of migrant skills in Sweden

Successful integration is heavily dependent on the skills of immigrants, and on the extent to which they can build the skills necessary to operate in Swedish society and on the Swedish labour force. This chapter examines the effectiveness of the routes migrants can take to acquire these skills. It begins by examining the success of the education system to integrate young migrants, to help them to navigate the system and to leave school with the qualifications required by the labour market. Next section then goes on to examine the extent to which adults arriving with very limited levels of education are able to build the functional and vocational skills that will enable them to find sustainable employment in Sweden. Finally the chapter turns to the development of language skills.

English

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