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Finishing Swedish classes gives refugees boost in job market

Published måndag 16 maj 2016 kl 11.25
Only a third completed the entire language program
(1:27 min)
Refugees find better paid work when they complete the SFI language program. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT.
Refugees find better paid work when they complete the SFI language program. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT.

Refugees who have completed state-financed Swedish courses do considerably better in the labor market and earn more than those who do not, regardless of their previous education level.

The report, carried out by newspaper Dagens Nyheter, found that language is the key to integration, both for finding work as well as coming into society at large. Sweden offers all immigrants a free basic language program to help with integration called Swedish for Immigrants (SFI).

Statistics Sweden reports that of the 13,464 refugees from 18-57 years old who arrived in Sweden in 2007, only a third completed the entire language program.

Thirty six percent of primary educated refugees who have not completed an SFI course earn a monthly income over 13,000 kronor compared to 66 percent of the refugees who completed the entire program. The gap is the same for refugees with a secondary education. Forty nine percent of refugees who have not completed an SFI course make more than 13,000 kronor each month compared to 65 percent of those who completed the entire program.

The newspaper said refugees do not finish the program for a number of reasons. Some find the courses to be long and tough, others get a job or internship, and some rely on their English as a means of communication.

With the increase of refugees coming to Sweden, Dagens Nyheter writes that demand will grow for SFI courses. Karin Sandwall, director of the National Centre for Swedish as a second language at Stockholm University, told the paper that 5,000 new teachers are needed, and adds that it is important for municipalities to invest wisely for the future.

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