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    Sweden Stakes on Menial Jobs, Berry-Picking to Keep Migrants Busy

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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)
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    At the height of the migrant crisis, Sweden received among the largest shares of migrants per capita and is still struggling with the accommodation and integration of these newcomers. Today, Sweden is betting on simple low-wage jobs such as berry-picking to keep the "new Swedes" occupied.

    In 2015, 163,000 people sought asylum the Nordic nation of 10 million; the majority of the new arrivals were able-bodied men. Despite Sweden's high hopes that it could revitalize its job market with new blood, many of the newcomers proved to lack both the training and the language skills necessary to become gainfully employed and repay the country which offered them refuge with the fruits of their labor.

    Having previously described mass migration as a boon and a "competence rain," the Swedish government seems to have lowered its expectations and today hopes they will take on simple, low-wage jobs, such as berry-picking. However, this seasonal occupation won't be available to people from outside the EU. To make things work, the Swedish government hopes to change its laws on labor migration.

    "I believe this kind of job must be reserved to put people who have come to Sweden to work" Swedish Industry Minister Mikael Damberg said, as quoted by Swedish national broadcaster SVT.

    In 2016, over 3,900 work permits for menial jobs that at most require a short training period or an introductory course were granted in Sweden. Most of them dealt with berry-picking, farming and the like.

    In the future, these jobs should exclusively go to immigrants living within Sweden, according to an opinion piece Mikael Damberg and Swedish Trade Union Confederation Chief Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson penned jointly for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. The aim is to reduce the rampant unemployment among the recent "crop" of migrants.

    "We have to deal with a situation where 163,000 people sought asylum in Sweden during a single year, which is the equivalent of a new Sundsvall and a new Kalmar combined [both significant Swedish cities]. Never before has Sweden received so many people in such a short time," Damberg and Thorwaldsson stressed in their article, emphasizing the fact that three fourths of the newcomers were under 40 years of age.

    Damberg even suggested that the Swedish government could possibly deviate from its amicable approach, which critics regard as "over-lenient," and actually apply some mild force in providing the migrants with occupations.

    "There are rules today according to which they forfeit state support if they refuse to take the job," Mikael Damberg told SVT.

    In 2016, eyebrows were raised when Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven pledged to put greater focus on job creation in Sweden and mobilize at least 30,000 menial jobs in both the private and public sectors in a bid to make Sweden the EU country with the lowest unemployment. However, things didn't go as smoothly as planned.

    Recently, the Swedish Employment Service admitted that it had failed to create local jobs and announced it will return a major 3.5-billion-SEK contribution ($400mln) to the state. The money was specifically earmarked to create subsidized jobs for the long-term unemployed, SVT reported.


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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)


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