Gulf Between Immigrants on Job Market

Local (Stockholm), Dec. 9, 2005

Foreigners coming to Sweden have very different experiences on the employment market, with 60 percent of Finns moving here finding a job after a few years, but only 13 percent of Somalians, a new survey shows.

Of the seventeen largest immigrant groups in Sweden, Finns are the most successful at getting jobs, with Britons following close behind. The survey, carried out by Statistics Sweden for Swedish Radio, showed that 57 percent of British citizens who moved to Sweden between 1998 and 2001 had found work by 2003.

Puzzlingly, Americans were doing significantly worse, with only 43 percent in a job. The survey only counted foreigners who had been granted Swedish residency.

According to Peter Fredriksson, researcher at the Institute for Labour Market Policy Evalutation (IFAU), a possible explanation for the differences between Britons and Americans could lie in the reasons for which they come to Sweden.

“If many Americans come to Sweden to study, whereas Britons tend to come here to work, then that would explain the gap.”

There could be similar reasons for the differences between employment rates among Finns (60 percent), Norway (49 percent) and Denmark (42 percent).

The bottom of the table was dominated by immigrants from more troubled parts of the world. Somalians were worst off, with only 13 percent in a job. The position for Afghans was little better, with 18 percent in work, while 22 percent of Iraqis and 31 percent of Syrians were employed.

But it was not just immigrants from western European countries who were getting jobs: fifty percent of new arrivals from Bosnia and Hercegovina were also in work.

Peter Fredriksson says that the difference between Bosnians and Syrians, for example, is puzzling.

“Both Bosnians and Syrians are refugee groups, so this is either a result of discrimination or it is due to certain immigrant groups lacking an education that is suitable for the Swedish job market.”

One factor that can help immigrants find work is the existence in Sweden of large groups from their home countries, says Fredriksson.

“Studies that we have carried out show that new arrivals who come to areas with lots other people from their country find it easier to integrate into the job market.”

In Sweden as a whole, just over 4 million people were in work in 2005, or 47 percent of the population, including retired people and children.

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