Sweden, a major country providing international protection, recently received more reunited families and international students. The 2008–2010 Integration Strategy focuses on 7 areas across all MIPEX strands.

Ranked 1st again, Sweden’s ‘mainstreaming’ approach works to improve equal opportunities in practice. All residents are legally entitled to be free from discrimination, live with their family and secure in their residence and citizenship. Within Sweden’s social model, each individual is also legally entitled to support that addresses their specific needs (e.g. labour market introduction, orientation programmes, Swedish language and mother tongue courses).

All Swedish residents still enjoy largely equal rights and responsibilities. Newcomers saw few changes affecting Sweden’s MIPEX score, but new laws may improve implementation and impact. An employer-based immigration system and labour market introduction structure should help more become self-sufficient – and faster. It should also help them meet new family reunion conditions. Government wants these to act as incentives – not obstacles – in practice because a newcomers’ right to family life is equally important. Integration policy benefits from Sweden’s commitment to evaluation and partnership with researchers, civil society and immigrants themselves.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 July 2007
Labour Market Mobility
Step-in jobs begin, combining work and Swedish language learning.
0 September 2008
Integration Strategy 2008–2010
Introduction; employment; education equality; adult education; discrimination; urban development; shared
0 December 2008
Long-term residence
New Immigration Law tries to attract migrant workers and changes their eligibility for permanent residence.
0 January 2009
Discrimination Act enters into force: law more coherent and effective, single Equality Ombudsman.
-5 December 2009
Family Reunion
2009/10:77 New income and housing requirements for some family reunions.
0 December 2009
Labour Market Mobility
Labour Market Introduction Act aims for more efficient and quicker economic integration.
0 December 2009
Stockholm Programme
End of Swedish Presidency of EU leads to 2010–2014 Stockholm Programme.

Key Findings

  • Swedish mainstreaming approach favourable overall for integration: equal rights and responsibilities, work on equal opportunities in practice. 
  • Favourable policies on labour market, family reunion, anti-discrimination. 
  • Slightly favourable policies on long-term residence, education, political participation, access to nationality. 
  • New income/housing requirements for some family reunion: incentive or obstacle? 
  • 2009 Labour Market Introduction Act: policies (MIPEX 100 per cent) should have better impact on newcomers over time. 
  • 2009 Discrimination Act: strong laws and policies easier to use for victims. 
  • Schools best prepared for diverse classroom in Sweden, alongside CA. 
  • More countries adopt dual nationality, like SE, but also citizenship at birth for second/third generation. 
  • Immigrant consultative bodies, strong in Nordics, absent in Sweden. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

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    Sweden in comparison

    If non-EU newcomers to Sweden went instead to newer labour migration countries (e.g. ES, IT) they would also have equal access, support and rights, but their challenges as foreign born and trained workers would be overlooked (e.g. recognition of qualifications). In more established immigration countries (e.g. DK, DE, NL), they would benefit from some of the targeted measures as in Sweden, but they may still find them less useful because various sectors and general support are closed to immigrants.


    The evidence for reform

    Before the Act, statistics showed that newcomers, especially refugees and women, faced long waits to find jobs. They may not effectively participate in support measures because the benefit to do so went to households – not each member – and depended on the municipality in which they lived. As part of preparing the Act, a new law piloted financial incentives for quicker Swedish learning in 13 municipalities. As part of regular evaluations of the Act, the ‘introduction guides’ will be compensated based on their own performance and immigrants’ results.

    All workers are treated equally and use targeted support to address their individual needs. Once residents obtain a permit of at least 1 year, the Swedish labour market does not create distinctions between Swedes and EU/non-EU nationals. For example, study grants are available for anyone working, including childcare within the family. Newcomers are informed of their rights under labour law through introduction programmes, unions, NGO partnerships and several multilingual websites (unlike in half the MIPEX countries). The 2008 Swedish Immigration Law reinforces that all workers have equal rights to fight exploitation and unfair competition (also unlike half). Immigrants to Sweden will find that rare combination of a country experienced with immigration and open to their economic potential (e.g. CA and PT, see box).

    With its 100% score, Sweden is working to better implement this mainstreaming approach. New labour policies (see box) aim to improve the country’s specific labour market model and the situations of different types of newcomers within it. Recent evaluations show immigrants are among those benefitting from ‘New Start Jobs,’ ‘Trial Opportunities,’ and ‘Work-Place Inductions.’ A few thousand have also taken ‘Step-In’ Jobs, combining Swedish courses with part-time work in their area of skill.

    The 2009 Labour Market Introduction Act aims to make it quicker for newcomers to learn Swedish, find or create a job matching their skills and, ultimately, support themselves in a more inclusive society. The new structure, at around 100 million euros, is described as ‘individual responsibility with professional support’. Administrations will deliver better and distinct services, while individuals will have better opportunities to participate. The Swedish Public Employment Service is now responsible for assessing newcomers’ skills (e.g. DK, FR, PT). During the introduction interview, it also informs them of available general and targeted support (e.g. DE, Flanders in BE). Newcomers help write up their introduction plan and have the individual right, wherever they live, to equal benefits for these measures. They freely choose an ‘introduction guide’ who helps them find a job. Their municipality provides introduction and language courses, housing and family initiatives and a new civic orientation programme. 

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    Monitoring goals

    Citing asylum increases and unemployment and overcrowding statistics, Law 2009/10:77 required non-EU sponsors to prove basic personal income and family housing. Consulted humanitarian actors feared negative impacts on family wellbeing. Government responded that Sweden was the ‘only’ EU country preserving its more favourable conditions under EU law. Still, they promised to remain the best at taking into account the rights of children and international protection. These groups and permanent residents are exempt. It assumed 10% of cases would be affected. By summer 2010, 2% were affected and 1% rejected.

    Sweden largely secures family life for newcomers to quickly become part of society (e.g. NO, FI and labour migration countries). Policies are inclusive of many family types, provide equal and secure rights, and are improving free and voluntary introduction programmes (see earlier). New income and housing requirements (see box) were a change in Sweden’s score and a change in direction – but not a significant one. Government (as in BE and PT) promised not to implement conditions (as in DK, FR, NO) that would lower family reunions and raise legal challenges (see NL). Considering the goals, evaluations can assess whether or not the conditions acted as incentives to work (including to move to municipalities with more work and housing) for all newcomers separated from their family. 

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    Areas for improvement

    Undocumented children in the country can have problems accessing all school levels. All children living in half the MIPEX countries are included in the whole education system. Newcomers in FR and LU go to specialised institutions to assess what they learned abroad and place them at the right level. In other countries, bodies such as the Swedish National Board of Education have pilot projects on school induction (e.g. CA, FI), school and teacher diversity (e.g. DK, DE, NO, UK), and teacher training requirements (e.g. DK, EE, LU, NL, UK).

    Sweden’s slightly favourable policies (see box), the best of the 31 MIPEX countries, encourage most students to do their best in a diverse school and society. Each pupil in the system is legally entitled to general and targeted support that addresses their individual needs and new opportunities: from interpreters welcoming newcomer families, to ‘equal respect and tolerance’ curricula, and the right to high standard Swedish-as-a-second-language and mother tongue tuition. Still, much of how migrant pupils and parents are included in school life is discretionary for municipalities and uneven across the country. Some may benefit from multicultural pre-schools, teacher diversity campaigns and National Board of Education projects e.g. ‘Better results and decreased differences’. 

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    From national to local consultation

    National authorities could once consult with immigrant representatives through the Centre Against Racism. They still support immigrant associations through the SIOS, the Co-operation Group for Ethnic Organisations. Recently, NGOs, municipalities and authorities have signed partnership agreements at local level in 21 cities to better coordinate their work in 38 urban development areas, characterised by exclusion.

    Scoring 6th, Sweden opens equal political opportunities for all residents in general politics. All can vote in local/regional elections and can form or join associations, media and political parties. Newcomers are better able to use their rights because policies are implemented to inform them and include their associations in civic life, as in BE, FI, DE, IE, NO, and PT. Sweden once scored higher like its Nordic peers because it supported official immigrant consultative bodies. These have now spread to 14 European countries. In Sweden today, authorities generally consult with civil society when they change policies. They also partner at national and local levels with NGOs that work with immigrants, but cannot speak for them. 

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    Becoming long-term residents gives newcomers slightly better chances to participate in most European countries, partly due to EU law. These standards were recently used in other high-scoring countries (e.g. BE, PT, ES) to create national statuses as secure as Sweden’s. Sweden provides equal status to nearly all settled legal residents for as long as they live in the country. They fulfil conditions that are average for Europe, but more coherent with the different reasons people settle in the country. Migrants who came to work prove they did so and pay a basic fee now after 4 years’ residence. Others already proved their personal attachments to Sweden, with families eligible after 2 years and refugees immediately.

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    The trend to citizenship at birth

    Both major and reforming countries of immigration are converging around some form of citizenship at birth (as in 12 MIPEX countries, recently DE, PT, LU, GR). Indeed, dual nationality for immigrants’ descendants is becoming harder to avoid and easier to regulate through international law. The goals of these reforms are often to eliminate any possible social exclusion over generations (e.g. GR, PT) and to better reflect a changing society (e.g. DE, LU).

    Since 2001, Sweden has a clear and uncontroversial path to citizenship, following several international trends. Newcomers are legally entitled (as in 9 other MIPEX countries) after 5 years (7) to the same secure citizenship (e.g. CZ, FI, IT, PL) and dual nationality (17) as Swedish-born citizens. SE (and BE, IE, IT) do not require language knowledge. Most countries do, but few effectively support all applicants to succeed (see CA, NO, PT, US). Swedish-born children are not automatically recognised as Swedish, since their legal guardians may or may not notify authorities once conditions are met. The trend to citizenship at birth – a simpler and clearer entitlement – creates equality after one or two generations (see box). 

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    Swedish residents may know better about discrimination and how to fight it, since equality legislation, bodies and duties become easier to use. Like other leading countries (BE, CA, FR, UK, US), Sweden continues to improve implementation. Its 2009 Anti-Discrimination Act replaces 7 laws with one and 4 equality bodies with one Equality Ombudsman (as in the 5 leading countries). This single approach aims to work more effectively and comprehensively on all grounds in even more areas of society. In court, more NGOs can support victims and judges can award higher damages, both to compensate and to deter. Government renewed requirements for active measures (see also UK) and will investigate their past impact and future potential.