Bureaucratic inertia blamed for immigrant job problems

4:21 min

As Sweden grapples with getting record numbers of immigrants into work, government and business representatives met today at a seminar hosted in Stockholm by the Centre for Business and Policy Studies, (SNS), an independent think tank.

While the mood was upbeat, centralised and bureaucratic decision making were identified as key factors in undermining immigrants' access to the labour market.

"So what we're trying to do is to get as flexible a system as possible in order to better welcome all the new people that are coming to Sweden," Josefin Malmqvist, deputy mayor of Sundbyberg municipality, tells Radio Sweden.

We've had the idea that one size fits all, but that's obviously not the case. We need to change our bureaucracy, and our way of thinking to be more flexible." 

Deflecting criticism that some employers abuse government schemes designed to support new arrivals to secure cheap, temporary labour, Fredrik Gren, CEO for healthcare provider Ambea, says that many of those his company had hired on training programmes had subsequently gone on to full-time employment.

"Many of the people who have actually been on one of our programmes, they are now fully paid employees of ours," he says.

Such schemes have also benefited Swedes, Gren explains, citing the example of 93 year-old former teacher who taught three new arrivals Swedish.

"He felt extremely valuable and was very excited about doing that," says Gren.

But how fast are things changing overall? Here's Malmqvist again.

"I'm sure we'll get there, but we must speed this up. I'm frustrated that it's not going faster," she says.

Sweden has taken in large numbers of immigrants in recent years, particularly during the migration crisis in 2015, although numbers have fallen since changes to immigration legislation were introduced last year.

The seminar, entitled "How do we get more new arrivals into work?", was organised under the auspices of SNS' integration initiative, which is financed by Tillväxtverket, the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.