Sweden, ever the social innovator, was one of the first EU countries to grasp the importance of making it as easy as possible for migrants to access the labour market quickly, an approach that is gaining popularity in other member states. Nicolas Ibaldi describes one ESF project that has great replicability potential.
Accessing the labour market is a core part of the integration process for migrants. Getting a job is fundamental to become part of the host country’s economic and social life. The faster newly arrived migrants find jobs, the faster countries will achieve successful integration rates.
The European Commission´s 2016 Action Plan on the integration of third-country nationals encouraged Member States to support the “fast track” approach with the help on different funding options including the European Social Fund (ESF).
Sweden, through its Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen), started implementing a fast-track initiative that same year. Three years later there are now 14 fast tracks covering thirty professions including social workers, nurses, teachers, chefs and electricians.
The goal of Arbetsförmedlingen’s fast track approach is to coordinate existing measures into a streamlined package to speed up the entry in labour market for skilled migrants who have been granted residency permits. Based on a tripartite cooperation between the government, trade unions and employers´ organisations, the result is a comprehensive programme which includes guidance, skills’ assessment, validation/recognition, work placements, training and language training.
According to Arbetsförmedlingen data, some 8,000 people have participated in a fast track programme since 2016 and 50% of participants obtained a stable job 19 months after starting the programme. This, however, does not mean there is not room for improvement as an in-depth analysis shows that participants in many cases got jobs in the right industry, but in lower qualified professions. As the Swedish Association of Local authorities and Regions (SALAR) puts it, the idea is now to “use skills in the right way- newly arrived migrants must not only find jobs, they should find the right jobs”.
How the ESF is helping
As the main coordinator of migrants and refugees integration into the labour market, the Swedish Public Employment Service makes good use of the ESF to achieve its objective. One successful ESF project, for example, is the “Shorter introduction, faster into work’ programme helping to fast-track doctors and medically trained immigrants into the workforce.
Under the programme jointly designed by the Municipality of Uppsala, the County Council and the Employment Service, professionals with medical training who meet the Board of Health and Welfare criteria receive practical training in their specialised field as well as special assistance for accreditation of skills.
What is different about this programme is that it shifts the focus from providing immigrants with full and potentially lengthy Swedish language studies. Instead, participants are required to learn specialised vocabularies, which are specific to their field enabling them to be integrated into the workforce faster.
The Swedish fast-track approach has excellent transferability potential and could be used by other EU member states for a common path towards fast-track labour market integration of migrants and refugees. In fact, three fast-track pilot projects are currently under way in Italy, Belgium and Germany. ESF can be the tool to make this a reality.
For more information on the work of the Thematic Network on Migrants click here
 The EC’s DG MIgration and Home Affairs co-financed the LABOUR INT project that ran from 2016 to 2018 and carried out three pilot actions in Italy, Belgium and Germany. From January 2019, a follow up action-LABOUR INT2-extended the pilot actions to Austria and Greece. The objective in these two countries is to test the European Commission’s Skills Profile Tool for third country nationals (TCN).