Nordiskt samarbete om integration och inkludering

New report: How are the Scandinavian countries tackling the integration challenge?

27 apr 2020

Labour-market integration is widely seen as a key to newcomers being able to establish themselves within Nordic countries. Since the Nordic countries have seen high levels of immigration in recent years, both through labour migration from other European countries and as humanitarian migration from third countries, this is has proven to be a challenge.

Previous studies have shown the persistent gap between the labour-market participation of native -born and immigrants in general, and refugees in particular. This gap has become a major policy issue since labour-market integration is widely seen as a path to social integration and cohesion.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway are ideal candidates for a comparative study because of their political, social, cultural and economic similarities. Their introduction programmes for newly arrived refugees share many of the same features, such as language training, social studies and labour market measures.

By following all 220,000 refugees settled in the period 2008-2016 over time it is possible to estimate employment probabilities by year since settlement. These estimates are adjust for the different composition of refugees, business cycle and local labour market conditions over time and between countries. These trajectories are estimated separately for men and women and reveals that employment probability are very low in the first year of settlement. With duration of residence the employment probabilities increases for both men and women in all three countries.

Who has the best outcome?

Analyses show that which country has the best results depends on when the outcomes is measured.

  • Denmark has the best initial employment levels, for both men and women, in the first years after settlement. Then, because employment rates in Denmark have a less steep growth, the other two countries catch up or surpass Danish employment levels over time.
  • After two to four years in the country, participants in the integration programme in Norway generally have higher employment levels than participants in the integration programme in Sweden and Denmark. However, this employment gap between Norway and the other two countries decreases for male participants over time, but remains (Sweden) or increases (Denmark) for female participants. employment levels than participants in the integration programme in Sweden and Denmark.
  • However, Sweden does slightly better for female participants than Denmark, at least in the long run. In all three countries, the more recent cohorts do better than the earlier ones (except for female participants in Denmark), the improvement for more recent cohorts compared to earlier cohorts is greatest in Sweden.

Download the report

This report is a short version of the report Nordic integration and settlement policies for refugees: A comparative analysis of labour market integration outcomes, Nordic Council of Ministers 2019.

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