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Impact of Immigration on Sweden’s Labour Market

When Eritrean-native Samuel Berhe moved to Sweden, he found himself unemployed. Fast forward to now, he no longer represents the years-old statistic of labour market exclusion for immigrants. Instead, he’s gainfully employed at an elderly care home in Surahammar. He embodies the reversal of a trend – high level of immigrant unemployment declining to its lowest in years.

Underpinning the Shift

So, what’s the reason behind the change? One can attribute it to a shortage of skills and manpower within several sectors such as healthcare, education, and elderly care. This has opened chances for those previously confined to the unemployment circles. Surprisingly, unemployment rates among non-Europe-born individuals have plummeted to record lows, nearly halving from the peak seen during the 2016 refugee crisis.

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Interestingly, despite the downturn projected for the Swedish economy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the job market remains largely unaffected. The demand for workforce remains robust in various sectors plagued by a wide skills gap.

“We have a high-deficit situation in the labour market.”

Eva Samakovlis, Analysis Manager, Arbetsförmedlingen

Surahammar – A Local Reflection

A typical provincial town in Sweden, Surahammar, is home to some major private employers and a growing need for employees in the healthcare, education, and care sectors. Remarkably, the unemployment rate amongst non-European-born individuals dropped from a hefty 53% during the 2016 refugee crisis (significantly above national average), to a mere 15% as of this July.

Employment Numbers, By the Book

Though the figures indicate an encouraging trend at both Surahammar and national levels, noteworthy differences persist between domestic and foreign-born individuals. As of May this year, employment rates amongst the domestic-born population hovered around 85.7% while the foreign-born sat at 72.4%, according to SCB. By July, unemployment was 3.6% amongst the domestic-born population, spiking to 19.4% amongst non-European-born individuals.

Employment Market – Emerging Practices

Amidst the scramble to fill roles, some companies have adopted novel recruiting approaches, looking within. Existing employees are offered the opportunity to progress, creating vacancies that can be filled in by those with lesser experience or skills.

Potential Storm Clouds on the Horizon

Although things are looking up, a looming economic trough could spell complications. All sources forecast a rise in unemployment within the coming year. Unfortunately, those recently entering the job market could be susceptible to getting laid off first. Moreover, many foreign-born individuals working within the service sector find themselves in the firing line if Swedes begin consuming fewer services.

An Example for Us All

Back in Surahammar, it’s English proficiency that landed Samuel Berhe his coveted job. Samuel’s message is clear, Swedish speaking skills is a key to the world of employment in Sweden. A fact that even Bengt Eriksson, labour market manager in Surahammar, agrees to.

Instances like Samuel Berhe’s hint toward a hopeful future, albeit with challenges. As Sweden’s labour market evolves, the experiences of the expat community will surely follow suit.

Now, let’s turn pages back to Surahammar, where language proficiency has not just created jobs, but a community that thrives together.

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