Report on Socio-cultural context of SwedenRationale for the report.
The rationale for this STPKC report was formulated during the initial partner meeting as follows, and was utilised as the guidelines for the production of this report.
The sources used for compilation of the information on the Swedish socio-cultural context, this report’s base data, were mainly drawn from Internet and previously produced reports on the subject. Links to the source materials used are provided whenever considered relevant for further studies and acquisition of more in-depth understanding of the socio-cultural issues addressed in this summaries report.
An initial overview of the
Swedish socio-cultural contextSweden seen from a foreigner’s perspective
Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden is a member of the European Union since January 1, 1995. A beautiful and peaceful Scandinavian country, Sweden attracts a lot of travellers from all over the world. Elegant and charming cities, cute villages, picturesque landscapes, forests and lakes, and icy tundra provide a variety of experiences and make Sweden an enchanting country worth exploring whether by car along excellent well-maintained roads or by train through the extensive modern railway train system. Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is among the main tourist attractions.
The climate of Sweden varies throughout the country, but generally is not as cold as most people think. Although the country is located in high latitudes, the weather and temperature are influenced by Gulf Stream waters. Winters are usually cold (and can be extremely cold in the north) while summers are nice and warm.
People coming to Sweden should be aware that a Swedish monetary unit is the Kronor or Crown. Like in most other countries, banks exchange money during business hours Monday through Friday. In some places like airports, ferry terminals, post offices, and exchange offices, tourists can exchange money any time. Like in the most other European countries, visitors may also use travellers cheques, major credit cards, and ATMs that can be found anywhere.
The nation is governed by the Government assisted by the Government Offices, an integral authority comprising the Prime Ministers Office, the ministries, the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the European Union and the Office of Administrative Affairs, including the Ministry of foreign affairs.
Sweden is also among the safest countries to travel to. No health risks are associated with the travel, and medical care in great. Sweden has reciprocal health agreements with other European Union countries, including the United Kingdom, so citizens of the UK and other countries who have European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will be entitled to emergency medical treatment just as Swedish nationals. Сrime in Sweden is at much lower levels than in other countries Europe, so visits to Sweden are mostly trouble free.
Americans, Canadians, Australians and UK nationals do not need visas to travel to Sweden and stay in the country for up to three months; all they need to enter the country is a passport valid for at least three months beyond the intended stay.Foreigners in Sweden
About 10 percent of Sweden’s nine million residents are non-Nordic foreigners, and Sweden is grappling with their integration. The Swedish government has an extensive set of programs to ease integration, including free Swedish lessons as well as native language instruction for immigrant children. Non-citizens can vote in local and county elections after three years of residence. Foreigners from Nordic countries can become naturalized Swedes after two years and other foreigners can apply after five years.
Nevertheless, immigrants have unemployment rates that are three times Swedish citizen rates, up from a 2-1 ratio in 1980. As an example immigrants are increasingly segregated in areas with other immigrants: the population of the Hjaellbo neighborhood of Goteborg went from half-immigrant in 1990 to two-thirds immigrant in 1998, and 80 percent of the 14,000 residents of the Rinkeby suburb of Stockholm are immigrants.
Most of the housing in these suburbs are huge apartment buildings that date from the 1960s and 1970s, when it was thought that middle class people moving out of the city would like high-rise buildings. They did not, so the migrants streaming in as guest workers filled the apartments.
In 1986, Sweden established an Ombudsman Against Ethnic Discrimination, becoming one of the first European countries to recognize discrimination and try to remedy it. Sweden established an Integration Authority in 1998 to promote the integration of the 20 percent of residents who are of foreign origin.The Swedish socio-cultural context for foreigners
In a recent EU report on the Swedish socio-cultural context it was claimed that Sweden is best in Europe at welcoming foreign workers. This should perhaps be seen in contrast to the situation, according to a new EU study, that Lithuania does least to help new arrivals settle in. (See the EU report ‘The Migrant Integration Policy Index’ for further details which is an EU-financed project to evaluate how well different countries promote integration.)
Only half of the 25 EU member states in the same study that they do enough to help immigrants, and this according to the researchers who are drawn from 25 analyzed organizations. The report also claims that there are estimated 21 million immigrants in the EU’s 25 member states (excluding recently joined Romania and Bulgaria).
The latest study from the Migrant Integration
Policy Index looks at 140 key factors that affect immigrants’ lives. These include labour rights, opportunities for permanent settlement, the possibilities for them to be joined by their families and laws that tackle racism and prejudice. The five countries with the largest immigrant populations - the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy and France – within that study are all on the top half of the list, with Italy leading. Overall, however, Sweden won more points than any other country. It is however still scope for improvements from all countries.
More hands-on information on the Swedish employment context could be found on various web sites, such as www.sweden.se
or sites like those copied below;
Expatriates and Job Seekers – gain valuable information, get job searching help, meet fellow expatriates, and improve your chances in Sweden here!
Companies and Recruiters – find talented, international people of all background and disciplines to fill your specific employment needs here! Immigration and seeking employment in Sweden
Sweden includes about one million foreign-born persons in its population of nine million; about half of the foreign-born have become naturalized Swedish citizens, making the number of foreigners in Sweden about 530,000. After a peaking at 75,000 in 1994, mainly due to fighting in the ex-Yugoslavia, immigration has been stable on 30,000 to 40,000 a year, with about 75 percent of immigrants entering to join family members already earlier immigrated to Sweden. The immigrants include 5,000 to 6,000 newcomers from Nordic countries, who have freedom of movement.
Sweden has been a high-tax, high-service state: 52 percent of GDP is collected in taxes to provide what are often described as cradle-to-grave government services. High taxes have not prevented Sweden from becoming a high-tech Mecca; the government encourages the installation of fibre optic networks throughout the country to facilitate internet access and the development of high-tech industry and services.
There has been freedom of movement within the Nordic countries since 1954, and much of the labour migration that occurred in Scandinavia until the late 1960s was of Finns moving to Sweden. Labour migration from southern Europe began in the late 1960s, later than in France or Germany, and with several important legal differences. For example, after 1965, non-Nordic foreigners needed a work permit before they arrived in Sweden. Labour migration peaked in three years -1969 through 1971- and was stopped at the behest of Swedish unions in 1972.
Sweden has been reasonably successful in using both internal and external controls to regulate immigration in the 1990s. Many important migration policy decisions were made administratively rather than being debated and voted on in the Parliament. Swedish labour unions supported the government’s policy of permitting foreign workers to become permanent residents after one or two years’ employment at the same wages as Swedes, and most settled as immigrants. Their children could generally obtain jobs in Sweden without difficulty, that is, Sweden did not attempt to discourage family unification by requiring newly arrived family members to wait several years for work permits.
In Sweden, there was never a widespread expectation as there was in Germany, that guest workers would rotate through jobs, leaving after one or two years to be replaced by a newly arrived foreigner. Since settlement was the norm, if Sweden wanted to slow the growth of the foreign population, it had to restrict the entry of foreigners.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was an immigration crisis in Sweden. The number of asylum seekers increased, and the share of Nordics among newcomers fell from two-thirds to one-third. High unemployment and a backlash from local governments, which were obliged to integrate refugees at the expense of local taxpayers, prompted the city of Sjoebo, for example, to refuse to accept refugees in 1987.
The resulting debate over what to do about immigration led to a combined immigration and integration system in the Aliens Act of 1989, which streamlined asylum processing, eliminated some categories of persons eligible for temporary protection, but broadened the interpretation of "refugee" contained in the Geneva Convention of 1951. As a result, some foreigners received refugee status rather than temporary protection.
A record 82,000 foreigners applied for asylum in 1992, prompting Sweden to require visas from nationals of ex-Yugoslavia and from other countries from which large numbers of asylum applicants came, including African countries. Sweden had 8,100 asylum applications in 1999, down 16 percent from 1998. Since January 1997, foreigners can apply for asylum in Sweden because of natural catastrophes. After being displaced by flooding in Poland in July and August 1997, 25 gypsies who applied for asylum in Sweden were rejected, with Sweden saying that the gypsies could move to non-flooded areas of Poland.
Immigration peaked at 78,987 in 1994; 80 percent of these immigrants were non-Nordics, and 33,587 foreigners were given immigrant status on humanitarian grounds. Sweden received 45,000 immigrants in 1997, up from 40,000 in 1996. The 1997 immigrants included 3,700 Iraqis, 2,900 from the ex-Yugoslavia, and 2,800 Finns. Some 39,000 residents emigrated, including 23,000 Swedes and 16,000 foreigners.
In 1996, to signal the government’s tougher stance, Sweden’s Social Democratic government deported the Sincari family--two Kurdish women and nine of their children--because the husbands of the two women lied about their identity when they arrived in Sweden in 1990, saying they were from Iraq and then went underground to avoid removal. The government estimated in 1996 that the cost of immigrants to Sweden was $250 million a year.
Sweden has had few problems with illegal foreign workers, largely because of the widespread use of personal identification numbers tied to both population registers and tax authorities, and because the labour market is well policed by both private and public organizations. Some illegal work by foreigners is tolerated, as when Poles allowed to come to Sweden for up to 90 days without visas do farm work.
The Swedish government has also since the earlier mentioned crisis implemented an extensive set of programs to ease integration, including free Swedish lessons as well as native language instruction for immigrant children. Non-citizens can vote in local and county elections after three years of residence. Foreigners from Nordic countries can become naturalized Swedes after two years, and other foreigners after five years.
Many foreigners live in apartment blocks built in the 1970s in the suburbs of major cities, when it was thought that middle class people moving out of the city would like high-rise buildings. They did not, and migrants- foreign workers as well as asylum applicants- filled the apartments.
These suburbs were designed to be bedroom communities and most offer few jobs. The consequence is high unemployment: immigrants have unemployment rates that are three times Swedish citizen rates, up from a 2-1 ratio in 1980. For example, 70 percent of the 14,000 residents of Rinkeby near Stockholm receive welfare benefits, unemployment and criminality are far higher than average, and many employers refuse to hire Rinkeby residents.
There were about 220,000 foreigners in the Swedish labour force in 1998; foreigners were five percent of the Swedish labour force, including 90,000 Nordic foreigners and 130,000 non-Nordics. About 25 percent of the foreigners in the Swedish labour force were Finns, followed by 15 percent from the ex-Yugoslavia, and followed by Norwegians, Danes and Iranians.
Sweden established an Integration Authority in 1998 to promote the integration of residents who are of foreign origin. In 1999, Sweden’s Integration Minister proposed replacing the word immigrant with "person of foreign background" in laws and official speeches to work against the "we-versus-them" syndrome.
There have been several recent incidents that suggest a backlash against immigration. Since 1995, there have been a least four murders of foreigners attributed to neo-Nazis, including that of a warehouse clerk who told newspapers that an avowed neo-Nazi has been elected to the board of his trade union; he was killed in October 1999.
A 1998 disco fire in Gothenburg led to the deaths of 63 youths, mostly Muslim immigrants, and raised fears of rising ethnic tensions. Police reported that at the time of the fire,19 different ethnic groups were represented among the 400 people including Somalis, Iranians, former Yugoslavians and Turks in the disco, whose capacity was 150. Several immigrants, including three Iranians living in Sweden, were convicted of setting the fire and sentenced to up to eight years in prison; the proceedings were translated into 13 languages for families of the victims.
Public sentiments are however turning against immigrants, even if this is on a lower scale than elsewhere in Europe. Sifo, a market research firm, released a poll in July 2000 that found that 54 percent of Swedes believed there were too many foreigners in Sweden, up from 46 percent in 1999. Respondents said that foreigners committed a disproportionate amount of crime and caused problems in schools. Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson in an interview on February 6, 2000 said that "It’s clear that at certain times we had too much immigration and large parts of our immigration policies were badly handled."
It is not just in immigration policy that the middle is being squeezed in consensus-oriented Sweden. On economic questions ranging from whether to join the Euro zone and integrate more closely with Europe to welfare, labour market and tax policies, there was a movement toward more extremes of opinion in the elections that were held in September 2002. This trend has however been reversed in the more recent elections, like the recent EU elections.