News & Politics

In Sweden, the Foreign-Born Swell Ranks of the Unemployed

The “refugee” crisis that has so afflicted open-hearted Sweden is beginning to have some (more) unexpected side effects:

Half of the people who are unemployed in Sweden nowadays are born outside of the country and that figure is expected to grow by another 10 percentage points over the next two years, according to a forecast by the Public Employment Service, Arbetsförmedlingen. Mikael Sjöberg, the general director of the Employment Service, says that the figure could be revised up next year because none of the refugees who have arrived to Sweden this year have yet to pass through the system and register as job seekers.

“The political landscape is changing all the time, but we expect that the refugees who arrived here this fall will start arriving at our local employment offices sometime in 2017, so the unemployment figures among those born outside of Sweden will likely continue to grow even after 2017,” Sjöberg tells Swedish Radio News.

Sweden’s most recent unemployment figures show a small drop from 7.5 percent in October 2014 to 6.7 percent during the same time this year. Mikael Sjöberg says that while the labour market is improving as a whole, this group is still having a hard time getting a foot in the door.

“There is a dichotomy in the labour market. One the one hand, the Swedish economy is gaining strength, but on the other hand this group of people are still having trouble getting into jobs,” Sjöberg says.

Perhaps the fact that most of the “refugees” are from non-Western cultures radically different from Scandinavia might have something to do with it. Unlike, say, France, the Swedes have made an effort to try and integrate foreigners into their society, but so far the cultural divide has proven to be a formidable obstacle to the multi-cultural fantasy. So, of course, Sweden is just going to have to work a little harder to make the facts conform to the theory:

Sjöberg underscores that many foreign-born residents have great qualifications, but that many measures are needed to improve their success on the Swedish labour market. He says that Sweden needs a more efficient language introduction programme and that the Employment Service may need to start working to combat prejudice among employers.

“Almost all parts of society have a role to play to improve the situation,” says Sjöberg.

Let’s check back with Sweden sometime in 2017.