As many as 50 percent of newly arrived immigrants to Sweden lack compulsory school education, the trade newspaper Arbetsmarknadsnytt reported, citing a recent seminar with Forbes.
"The level of education of these groups is generally very low. Half of them do not even have elementary school skills, which we know are pivotal for having a chance in today's labor market," Pernilla Andersson Joona, economics professor at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) at Stockholm University, told Arbetsmarknadsnytt.
According to Andersson Joona, subsidized employment, that is when the state enters the scene and pays with taxpayer money, is therefore the easiest and the most effective method of getting the new arrivals and the foreign-born Swedish citizens to work. Andersson Joona called them "closest to real jobs" with the smallest possible risk of displacement effect.
However, even state subsidies aren't necessary persuasive enough for the employer. The so-called "establishment mission," which was launched in 2016 with the idea of helping the newcomers gain a foothold in Sweden's labor market, only led to 40 percent of men and 22 percent of women in the target group working or participating in regular education. Due to the 2015 immigration "bumper crop," over 75,000 people are currently enrolled in the Employment Agency's various "establishment activities," which is more than ever before.
"What we can see is that employers do not want to take employer responsibility. They'd like another party to take it. They also say that the rules for subsidized employment are too difficult for them even to want to hire," Pernilla Andersson Joona said.
At the moment, the Swedish labor market looks very promising for the native-born population, with unemployment among ethnic Swedes hovering at 4 percent. However, for the new arrivals and foreigners, it is at an alarming 21 percent.
Andreas Åström, Commerce Policy Manager at Almega, pointed out that staffing companies could play an important role. He stressed that staffing companies already have 50,000 foreign-born workers on their books and could possibly do more, voicing great disappointment in the fact that these companies are not included in the agreement on job creation between trade unions, employers and the government.
Pernilla Andersson Joona emphasized that there is no single solution for how new arrivals can get to work, stressing a combination of several different factors, such as taking advantage of the skillset they currently possess, increasing incentives for participating in language education and not least stronger incentives for employment.
Patrick Joyce, a researcher at the Stockholm-based Ratio Institute and the author of the report "Inspiration for integration" by the Expert Group for Public Economics Studies under the Ministry of Finance, called for more intensive efforts.
"Sweden is the only country that does not allow asylum seekers to start with certain establishment efforts until they get a residence permit. By contrast, in Germany, 50 percent of asylum seekers can start an establishment program on the same terms as those who obtained their residence permit," Joyce pointed out.
Another idea, according to him, increasing the pressure on the new arrivals to learn Swedish faster would be another option.
"Most countries have a system where they are rewarded in some way if they learn the language faster," Joyce argued.
In 2015 alone, Sweden took in a record 163,000 asylum seekers. Before the peak of the migrant crisis, Swedish media were eager to portray the influx as a "rain of competence," venturing that highly skilled professionals were coming in droves.