Thursday, April 10, 2014

Catching Up: The Labor Market Outcomes of New Immigrants in Sweden


For decades, Sweden has been exceptionally welcoming to refugees and their families, who have driven the bulk of growth in the country’s foreign-born population. But this openness has brought significant challenges, since many new arrivals lack locally in-demand skills and language proficiency. In recent years, Sweden has also been remarkably open to labor migration. The 2000s saw an increase in labor migrants from Europe, following Sweden’s entry into the European Union in 1995 and EU enlargements in 2004 and 2007. And for the first time in decades, reforms in 2008 allowed employers to bring in non-EU migrants at all skill levels with minimal restrictions.

A new report from the Migration Policy Institute, Catching Up: The Labor Market Outcomes of New Immigrants in Sweden, uses Swedish national register data to examine how four cohorts of immigrants arriving in Sweden between 1993 and 2011 fared in the labor market. The report assesses how outcomes have differed for immigrants who arrived via humanitarian, family reunification, or employment-based routes, as well as by intra-EU and non-EU migration.

The authors find that over time, newcomers have on the whole improved their employment rates, displayed income growth similar to natives, and moved into middle-skilled positions. Results vary, however, based on a number of criteria. While intra-EU (especially Scandinavian) and high-skilled labor migrants display healthy labor market performance, refugees and family arrivals continue to represent a significant challenge for integration policy.


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