Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist, director of the Swedish Public Employment Service. Photo: Rozerin Sari / P3 Nyheter

Pressure mounts on Public Employment Service to find work for immigrants

A year and a half into the launch of the Swedish Public Employment Service’s scheme to secure work for the newly arrived, 30 per cent of participants are, or have been, employed.

But the Public Employment Service, Arbetsförmedlingen, will soon come under a lot more pressure as the number of participants is expected to rise significantly in the coming years.

Director, Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist, claimed that there have been positive results in efforts to employ newly arrived refugees thanks to a reform brought in in December 2010. The state, and primarily the Public Employment Service, took over responsibility from the municipalities for ensuring that newly arrived refugees enter the work force as soon as possible.

“It is a good thing that the government dared to reform the integration policy. People should be expected to work, that is the Swedish model,” Bermudez-Svankvist told the TT news agency.

Today, 14,500 people are registered in the Public Employment Service’s scheme. Out of those, about 2,200 have been registered for more than 18 months and of those, eight percent, or 170 people, have or have had work. A further 500 have or have had subsidized positions that are combined with Swedish language studies.

The Public Employment Service sees all this is a sign of success. However, a report published in June by the Swedish Agency for Public Management raised several points of criticism.

It stated that while the authorities work harder than before on integrating the newly arrived into the labour market, not enough is being done.  It also said that people who had received a residence permit had to wait over two months for a so-called establishment plan from the Employment Service and that activities arranged by the service were not suitable for the individuals’ needs.

The Public Employment Service expects the pressure on the scheme to increase significantly in the coming years, with three to four times more people – or 60,000 people - expected to participate. That will make it harder to secure placements.

“It’s going to be very tough,” said Bermudez-Svankvist.

One critical factor is access to accommodation, without which it is harder for immigrants to get work and to arrange places at preschools.

“The housing issue is critical”, said Bermudez-Svankvist.

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