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Migrant Integration Governance in Sweden

By the 1930s, 1.3 million Swedes had emigrated to the Americas but the it took 2 more decades before the first large arrivals of immigrants into the country. Most of those who arrived in 1950s and the 1960s were Finnish, Italian, Greek but also former Yugoslavian workers. In 1970s however, these labour migrants were outnumbered by Latin American and later, Iranian, Iraqi and North-East 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 are in the top 3 of 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 background acquired the Swedish citizenship by naturalisation in the period 2000 and 2017.

Integration Strategy

To integrate or foster the social inclusion of these populations with migrant background, 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 primarily be achieved through mainstream policies and complemented by targeted measures during the first two years after newcomers were granted residence permit.

When the Social Democrat and Green government took office after the 2014 election, it dissolved the Ministry of Integration. Integration is since then to exclusively be achieved 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 an 200 million euros increase for immigrants’ early integration. The additional expenditures are 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 education and professional competences, complementary education, 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 both 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 the 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 - 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 brings a drastic change in the Swedish asylum policy: refugees do no longer automatically receive permanent residence permits but a 3-years temporary residence permit instead. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are now granted a 13-months permits. They can prolong their permits twice and only receive permanent residence, if able to prove their financial independence.

þ Asylum Law

The Law on Reception of Asylum Seekers was last amendment with the same temporary foreigners law halting the automatic granting of permanent residence to beneficiary of international protection. Prior to that, the 2008 amendment was crucial, as it granted asylum seekers the 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, with 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 a citizenship based on cohesion. Municipalities since then hold 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 all 7 grounds of discrimination, including ethnicity, religion or other belief. 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 a 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 by the Social Insurance Agency. The Ministry of Culture on the other hand is responsible for preventing and combating discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, religion or other belief, 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 compensations 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, bills are sent out 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 funds. EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one in terms of budget. Coordinated by the Swedish Migration Board, the national allocation for Sweden under AMIF is € 118 536 877. 42% of this amount is allocated to asylum and 46% to integration. The Swedish AMIF programme reflects integration priorities described in its the national empowerment and non-exclusion strategy and aims at:

  • achieving equal rights, obligations and opportunities for all regardless of ethnic and cultural background
  • achieving a society free from discrimination
  • providing women and men with the same opportunity to shape society and their own lives.

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.

Public funding Private funding
  • 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 Board supports municipalities and aims to stimulate regional partnership and cooperation for the reception of newly arrived migrants.
  • The Axfoundation wants to build bridges between researchers, experts, decision-makers and practitioners. They occasionally fund research on integration related topics.






Other stakeholders

þ    Implementing the Integration Programme

þ   Providing integration services

þ    Campaigning

þ    Publishing statistics