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Reforming the Integration of Refugees: The Swedish Experience

Target Group

This study on the 2010 Swedish introduction programme is the first evaluation report published in English on the effects of this major reform which transferred the responsibility for the integration of newly‐arrived refugees from municipalities to the government funded Public Employment Service (PES). The Reform was motivated by concerns over the low employment level and slow integration of refugees and is implemented through individualised interviews, plans and coaches. 

The authors compare the outcomes of the 'Treatment Group', which arrived in Sweden between 1 December 2010 and 31 December 2011 to which the reform was applicable, with those of the 'Comparison Group', which arrived in the eleven months preceding the Reform and participated in municipal introduction programmes. Outcomes are measured on the basis of employment and earnings data from registers held by Statistics Sweden in 2012, 2013 and 2014 for the Treatment group and in 2011, 2012 and 2013 for the Comparison group.

On average, the probability of any employment for the participants in the state introduction programme was 1.8 percentage‐points higher after two years and a year later, 2.7 percentage‐points higher than for those who followed municipal programmes. This corresponds to 5.7 percent higher employment after the second year and 7.5 percent higher after the third year. The effects on earnings were larger, about 20 percent higher earnings for the Treatment group after the second year and about 22 percent higher after the third year.

The authors interpretation is that the Reform has brought newcomers in contact with the PES earlier and thereby, the focus on labour market entry was strengthened. Also, through the Establishment Talks, newcomers got the opportunity to clarify and validate their education and previous experience. These talks further gave the PES a clearer picture of individuals qualifications as well as needs which were useful when designing appropriate individual Establishment Plans, including relevant labour market training. In addition, the change from benefits based on household income to individual and equal benefits may have contributed to the positive outcomes according to the authors.

Several other factors, including country of birth, month of residence permit, county of residence and local unemployment rate, were taken into account when determining the probability of employment of the newly-arrived immigrants, since they explain a large part of the variation in employment.

The full report

Source: Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA