Register data for unaccompanied minors who received a residence permit in Sweden 2003-2014 are used as a basis for the analysis and to investigate the unaccompanied youths’ way on to the Swedish labour market. What type of occupations do they have? How many neither study nor work? Is the establishment on the labour market affected by factors such as age, gender, country of origin, time in Sweden, county of residence, time in Sweden, or potential reunion with parents?  The report begins with an overview of the migration of unaccompanied children to Europe, as well as previous international research in the field. Subsequently, basic facts about the unaccompanied children who came to Sweden until 2017 are presented, along with facts on how the initial period in Sweden is organized for unaccompanied children, age estimation, and legislation in this area.

Results and Conclusions

  • The report show that during the period 2000–2016, the most common countries from which unaccompanied asylum seekers came were (in order): Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Iraq. Most unaccompanied minors are boys – in 2015 only 8 percent were girls and in 2016, 20 percent were girls. Of those who received a residence permit during the period 2003–2014, about a quarter were girls.
  • Up to the age of 21, the vast majority of unaccompanied minors are in some form of education. Many study at upper secondary level even after the age of 19 – at Komvux (Municipal adult education) or other forms of education. The results in upper secondary school are often unsatisfactory.
  • Compared to Swedish-born with the same lower level of education, unaccompanied migrants have about the same rate of employment. One clear result is that unaccompanied migrants living in the Stockholm area are employed to a much higher extent, and have higher wages than those living in other parts of the country. Another clear result is that unaccompanied men from Afghanistan do better in the Swedish labour market than unaccompanied men from other countries.
  • Among the unaccompanied migrants who are employed most work in the field of service, care and sales or professions that do not require formal training. Among the women, the health and social care sector dominates. Many men also work in construction, manufacturing, transportation or the restaurant industries.
  • It is much more common to neither work nor study, among unaccompanied persons as compared to Swedish-born between 19 and 27 years. The largest proportion is found among unaccompanied women; about a quarter in that group neither works nor studies.
  • Unaccompanied persons are more often married than Swedish-born and young persons who have immigrated with their parents, but also that many unaccompanied women divorce after only a few years. Another result is that a higher share of unaccompanied persons has been diagnosed with a psychiatric diagnosis, compared to young persons with a Swedish background.

These results have contributed to policy recommendations that concern extended and improved register statistics, support structures for unaccompanied girls/female youth, and improved efforts in terms of workplace training and employment services.

The report is written by Professor Eskil Wadensjö and Aycan Çelikaksoy, Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University.