We know that foreign born in Sweden are much less likely to be employed than natives, even when they have comparable educational level and background. In comparison with other EU-countries the employment gap is much larger in Sweden and that is especially evident for groups that came for humanitarian reasons or as family reunifications. In this Policy Brief the question is to which extent these gaps reflect immigrants’ lower skills. How can education and training help alleviate these gaps?

The results show that foreign-born in Sweden have lower human capital than natives on average. These gaps, and hence the need for up-skilling varies considerably by origin. Investment in formal education seems to pay triple dividends in reducing gaps in labour market outcomes between migrants and natives. First, formal qualifications are associated with higher literacy proficiency, notably when attained in Sweden. Second, both education and the resulting literacy skills are associated with better employment prospects. This calls for a focus not only on providing foreign-born with a degree, but also on improving their learning outcomes.

The Policy Briefen is a summary of an article that our author Jon Pareliussen co-authored with Margherita Bussi, based on data from OECD Economic survey of Sweden 2015: ”Back to Basics – Literacy Proficiency, Immigration and Labour Market Outcomes in Sweden” in Social Policy & Administration 2017 (51:4).

Picture by Angelina Litvin from Unsplash.