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Governance of Migrant Integration in Sweden

By the 1930s, 1.3 million Swedes had emigrated to the Americas, but it took two more decades before the first large arrivals of immigrants into the country. Most of those who arrived in the 1950s and the 1960s were Finnish, Italian, Greek and former Yugoslavian workers. In 1970s, however, these labour migrants were outnumbered by Latin American and later, Iranian, Iraqi and northeast African refugees. Read more


Foreign population in Sweden

On 1 January 2017, 466,232 third-country nationals (TCNs) were living in Sweden. They represented 5% of the total population, according to Statistics Sweden.

Most came from Syria (116,384), Somalia (41,335) and Eritrea (32,099). International protection, family reunification and labour were the top three purposes of stay for the 150,535 permits issued in 2016.



There are no statistics available on the overall stock of naturalised Swedes, but data provided by Statistic Sweden indicate that nearly 500 000 people with third country backgrounds acquired Swedish citizenship by naturalisation in the period from 2000 to 2017.

Integration Strategy

To integrate or foster the social inclusion of populations with migrant backgrounds, successive Swedish governments have set up integration strategies since the 1970s. In 2007, the government established a new Ministry of Integration and Gender Equality, reformed the integration system in 2008 and presented a comprehensive strategy entitled Empowerment against Exclusion. Its overall goal was to increase both the supply and the demand for labour, and to create equality in schools. Migrant integration was meant to be achieved primarily through mainstream policies and complemented by targeted measures during the first two years after newcomers are granted residence permits.

When the Social Democrat and Green government took office after the 2014 election, it dissolved the Ministry of Integration. Integration was thereafter to be achieved exclusively through mainstream and labour market policies. The general principle is that a migrant granted residence in Sweden is subject to the same rules as a national resident. However, a new policy area emerged: the labour market integration of newcomers. In 2016, the State budget proposed a 200 million euro increase for immigrants’ early integration. The additional expenditures were for labour market programmes, interpreters, vocational education, civic orientation courses and language training.

Overall in Sweden, emphasis is put on ensuring equal rights, obligations and opportunities for all, irrespective of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. 

Integration Programme

The current government made the existing voluntary Introduction Programme mandatory. The regulatory changes entered into effect on 1 January 2018. This means that newcomers who are considered in need of education and training to find work will be instructed to apply for and undertake education and training, as part of their Individual Introduction Plan. The Programme therefore includes validation of educational and professional competences, complementary education and internships, in addition to:

 þ language courses

 þ civic education

 þ vocational training

Prior to that, a reform to speed up the introduction of newly arrived immigrants into jobs and social life already occurred in 2010. It strengthened personal incentives for newcomers to take up work and take part in employment and civic preparatory activities. These were made a condition for reception of social benefits. The reform implemented in 2010 replaced law 1992:1068 and its system of compensation for refugees, for example.


The Migration Studies Delegation (Delmi) initiates studies and supplies research results in the area of migration and integration. Its most recent report compiles finding on the labour market integration of newcomers during the period 2012 to 2016. Prior to that, Delmi published a report on the effects of migration on the labour market in 2016 and one on integration policies and the labour market in 2015.

The Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy (IFAU), a research institute under the Swedish Ministry of Employment, also initiates studies on the effects of labour market and integration policies.


þ Foreigners Law

The Swedish Aliens Act was adopted in 2005. The parliament accepted a temporary law to replace it in June 2016. The law brought a drastic change to the Swedish asylum policy: refugees no longer automatically receive permanent residence permits but a 3-year, temporary residence permit instead. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are now granted a 13-month permit. They can prolong their permits twice and only receive permanent residence if they are able to prove their financial independence.

þ Asylum Law

The Law on Reception of Asylum Seekers was last amended with the same temporary foreigners law halting the automatic grant of permanent residence to beneficiaries of international protection. Prior to that, the 2008 amendment granted asylum seekers the crucial right to free medical care.

ý Integration Law

Sweden no longer has a dedicated integration law. Following the all-mainstream approach of the government, the Law on Measures for the Introduction of Certain Newcomers, introduced in 2010, was repealed in 2017 by the Law on Newly Arrived Immigrants, which entered into effect on 1 January 2018. The regulatory change aligns support provided to newcomers to that provided to Swedish jobseekers.

þ Nationality Law

Sweden’s first law on citizenship was adopted in 1950 and completely recast in 2001. The new legislation was last amended in 2014 to promote citizenship based on cohesion. Since then, municipalities have held ceremonies to celebrate new citizens, both men and women can transfer Swedish citizenship to their children, and Swedes who lost their nationality as a result of previous provisions aimed at avoiding dual citizenship can regain it.

þ Anti-discrimination

A new Act on Discrimination came into force in January 2009. It replaces the Equal Opportunities Act and provides for the same protection against 7 grounds of discrimination, including ethnicity, religion or other beliefs. In addition, it merges four Ombudsmen into one single national authority.

Public authorities

Integration in Sweden is a trans-sectorial issue. Different ministries and agencies work to reach diverse objectives. However, given the focus on labour market insertion, the Ministry of Employment has coordinating responsibility in addition to its own integration-related responsibilities. Its Public Employment Service, for example, coordinates the integration programme, creates individual integration plans and decides on individual integration allowances, which are paid for by the Social Insurance Agency. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for preventing and combating discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, religion or other beliefs, and for taking measures against xenophobia and racism.

The County Administrative Boards are responsible for coordinating regional and local integration measures. Furthermore, municipalities are in charge of finding accommodation for the newly arrived refugees whom they are obliged to settle on their territories since 2016. They also provide language and civic orientation courses, as well as adult education. For unaccompanied minors with a residence permit, they also appoint legal guardians, if necessary. Municipalities receive compensation for receiving newcomers from the Swedish Migration Board.

Civil society

Given the decentralised governance of integration issues in Sweden, there are no structural consultative bodies in the country. However, matters are referred to selected actors and institutions on an ad hoc basis, depending on the issues in question. Universities, NGOs, trade unions and other civil society organisation are among institutions consulted by the government.


Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several EU funds. In addition, national and private funds are made available for service providers and other stakeholders to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.

þ  EU Funds

  • Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Sweden


The Swedish AMIF programme aims at ensuring ‘a long-term sustainable migration policy’. This policy is intended to safeguard asylum law and, within the framework of regulated immigration, facilitate cross-border mobility, promote demand-driven labour immigration and take advantage of the developmental effects of migration. The Swedish AMIF programme prioritises efforts and finances projects in three main areas: 1) asylum, 2) integration and legal migration 3) voluntary return.

National managing authority

The national managing authority for the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Sweden is the Swedish Migration Agency.

  • European Social Fund (ESF) in Sweden


The ESF is contributing approximately € 723 million to Sweden over the 2014-2020 period. A priority of the ESF in Sweden is to promote the labour market inclusion of people who are far from the labour market, including newly arrived migrants.

National managing authority

The national managing authority for the European Social Fund (ESF) in Sweden is the Swedish ESF Council.

  • Other EU funds for integration available in Sweden

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authorities:

Swedish Council for Higher Education (Education and Training)

Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (Youth)

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances

National managing authority: The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth manages ten of the ERDF Operational Programmes in Sweden, with the rest managed by several county administrations.

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), offering material assistance to the most vulnerable or in need

National managing authority: Swedish ESF Council

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: Swedish Board of Agriculture

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which supports coastal communities in diversifying their economies and finances projects that create jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts

National managing authority: Swedish Board of Agriculture

þ  Other Funds

  • Other public funding in Sweden

The Swedish Inheritance Fund supports non-profit organisations in developing projects and activities for children, young people and people with disabilities. The Fund prioritises projects working for gender equality, integration, diversity and accessibility.

The County Administrative Boards (Länsstyrelser) support municipalities and civil society organisations to stimulate regional partnership and cooperation for the reception of newly arrived migrants.

  • Private funding in Sweden

The Axfoundation aims to build bridges between researchers, experts, decision-makers and practitioners. The foundation occasionally funds research on integration-related topics.

Alba Langenskiöld Foundation 

Since 2015, the Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) has given support to sports associations that work on the inclusion of newly arrived immigrants through its ‘establishment support’ (Etableringsstöd).

Other stakeholders

þ    Implementing integration programme

þ   Providing integration services

þ    Campaigning

þ    Publishing statistics