The term “shadow society” has gained momentum in Sweden in recent years. It is often used to describe the growing group of foreign nationals who live outside of the Swedish system, without residence permits, and are often exploited on the labour market. The “shadow society” is a highly charged topic that is widely discussed in politics and in the media, but, at the same time, is underdeveloped as an area of research. Based on existing research, what can we really say about Sweden’s “shadow society”? In order to answer this question, this research overview will map out how existing research describes the extent and composition of Sweden’s “shadow society”, but also analyse the different discourses about the “shadow society” and what implications these discourses have for policy proposals.

The author of this research overview is Zenia Hellgren, doctor of sociology (Stockholm University, 2012), lecturer in political and social theory and senior migration and diversity scholar at the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain).