No matter how quickly jobs are found for refugees, there is a risk of the integration stalling again after five to ten years. These slightly unexpected results are presented in the latest edition of Nordic Economic Policy Review published by Nordregio and launched in Copenhagen on 26 April 2017.
“The differences between immigrants and Norwegian-born citizens in the labour market should even out the longer people have lived in the country. But we are finding that the opposite is the case. The gap increases after five to 10 years,” says Knut Røed co-author of the Nordic research report cited in the Review.
People who have come here from low-pay economies and are poorly qualified run the greatest risk of losing their foothold in the world of work.
They also tend to have less secure jobs, suffer injuries at work and end up on sick leave.”
Norwegian education and training secures jobs
Immigrants who complete a Norwegian upper-secondary school programme or vocational education and training are more likely to remain in work, the report says.
“One hot political tip would be to invest more effectively in education and training and to design benefits in a more job-oriented way,” says the other co-author Bernt Bratsberg.
In Denmark too, employment levels among new arrivals tend to go up in the early years in the country, but many of the jobs are clearly short term because integration stalls after a decade.
Farthest out on the periphery
“The evidence suggests that even if refugees get started in a job quickly, they are farthest out on the periphery of the labour market with a high risk of falling victim to cuts and redundancies and are less well-equipped to adapt in order to find new work,” says Marie Louise Schultz-Nielsen, who wrote the Danish section of the report.
The results from Norway and Denmark show that a policy for integrating newcomers is not enough on its own. To establish a proper foothold on the labour market, more long-term and follow-up strategies are needed to improve levels of education and training as well as language skills.
It seems to take longer to get refugees into work in Sweden. Half of those granted asylum do not have a proper job until they have been in the country for five years. The research identifies the need for more rapid validation of qualifications from other countries and more training and education programmes for sectors with staff shortages.
Unemployment the biggest drain on the public purse
In a concluding report, Joakim Ruist looks at the fiscal impact of refugees. He makes the point that the greatest impact is not on the cost side, but is the lack of tax income if newcomers are not earning.
The Nordic countries can, therefore, cut the refugee bill by looking at different ways of guaranteeing that they stay in work.
The Nordic Council of Ministers has started a programme designed to support national integration efforts. It will run until the end of 2018 and has a budget of DKK 40 m.
- Nordic Economic Policy Review (NEPR): Labour Market Integration in the Nordic Countries
- Further info about Nordic co-operation on integration