Sweden’s comprehensive approach places it in the MIPEX ‘Top Ten’, within the top three. Its overall score on the MIPEX 100-point scale is 86, while the average MIPEX country score is much lower at 49/100. Sweden’s integration policies guarantee equal rights, multiple opportunities and long-term security, both for newcomers and citizens.
Sweden’s approach to integration is most like those of Canada, Finland and Portugal, and is more inclusive than those of the other Nordic countries. Compared to Finland, Sweden’s policies are slightly more advanced on health and access to nationality but slightly less developed on political participation and permanent residence.
In the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries, immigrants are treated as equals and their integration is invested in as an opportunity for national growth. In Sweden, the integration of immigrants works both ways: policies that invest in them have the secondary effect of encouraging the public to see immigrants as their equals, as neighbours and as potential citizens.
Integration policies matter because the way in which a government treats immigrants significantly influences how well immigrants and the public interact. Research carried out by MIPEX shows that integration policy is one of the strongest factors shaping not only the public’s willingness to accept immigrants, but also immigrants’ own attitudes, sense of belonging, participation and even health in their new home country. Under inclusive policies like those of Sweden, both immigrants and the public enjoy similarly positive attitudes, satisfaction with life, trust in society and sense of belonging, as well as heightened awareness of discrimination.
Compared to other MIPEX countries, Sweden’s ambitious policies seem to be more effective than other countries at reaching most immigrant residents in need. Immigrants and their children are more likely to invest in their skills than elsewhere in Europe, which are narrowing gaps in long-term employment and education outcomes over the years and from one generation to another. Nearly all non-EU immigrants are guaranteed in law and in practice the same rights as Swedish citizens in economic, social, family and democratic life. Residents in SE are most likely to reunite together and become permanent residents, voters and citizens. More people in Sweden are informed of their rights as potential victims of discrimination and using these rights to take the 1st steps to access justice. Sweden’s integration policies help to explain Sweden’s internationally high levels of public acceptance, awareness of discrimination and rights as well as high levels of immigrant political participation, naturalisation, life satisfaction, sense of belonging and trust.
- Labour market mobility: Favourable: Sweden is ranked in second position in the area of labour market mobility, alongside Finland. Non-EU citizens in Sweden enjoy equal access to rights in the labour market and to the country’s social safety net. However, during a labour migrant’s first two years in the country, the work permit is only valid in connection with a specific employer and occupation. In terms of education and work-related training, non-EU citizens are more likely to have access in Sweden than in most other countries. Legal residents can invest in their education and skills through equal access to both general support and additional, targeted support. According to two dozen independent scientific studies used by MIPEX, these labour market mobility policies can help working immigrants to improve their language and professional skills, career prospects and public acceptance.
- Family reunification: Slightly favourable: Sweden’s one slight area of weakness, the restrictive economic resource requirement can delay or discourage newcomers to reunite with their family. Since 2016, all but refugee sponsors must have secured a job with a sufficient income and benefits to cover their and their family’s needs. Furthermore, only in very particular circumstances can parents or adult children reunite in Sweden. Reunited families can be relatively secure in their future in Sweden. 20 scientific studies referred to by MIPEX show that facilitating family reunification can have a major impact on whether immigrant families reunite, settle down in the country, find jobs, secure a better place to live and age with dignity.
- Education: Favourable: Ranked #1 for education on the MIPEX scale, Sweden’s targeted policies are reaching immigrant pupils and addressing many of their basic needs and opportunities. Immigrant pupils, regardless of status, are guaranteed equal access to pre-primary, compulsory and vocational education in the country. In addition, they benefit from initiatives that target their specific learning needs, support them to learn their mother tongue and encourage them to appreciate cultural diversity. After compulsory education, immigrant pupils may also benefit from ad hoc measures that facilitate access to higher education. Such education policies serve not only to close achievement gaps for vulnerable groups on different education tracks, but also to encourage a common sense of pride, safety and belonging at school.
- Health: Favourable: Ranked #2 alongside those of Switzerland and New Zealand, Sweden’s healthcare policies entitle legal immigrants, undocumented immigrants and Swedish citizens to almost the same level of healthcare. However, Sweden’s health policies slipped slightly on the MIPEX scale due to law 2016:381. Rejected asylum-seekers lose their so-called LMA card, which creates difficulties for them to follow up on previous care like maternal care. Immigrants with access to the healthcare system are regularly informed about their entitlements and receive other forms of support in Sweden, such as interpretation. While more research is needed on migrant health policies, around a dozen MIPEX studies - including several reviewed in The Lancet - find that inclusive policies reduce gaps in health equity in terms of immigrants’ reported health, chronic illnesses, elderly diabetes and frailty, and even mortality.
- Political participation: Favourable: Non-EU citizens can vote and stand in local elections after three years of legal residence in Sweden. Immigrants receive relevant information about and support for their participation in civil society. However, unlike other countries, Sweden does not provide an official structure for dialogue between immigrant associations and state authorities or politicians. Instead, the Swedish government funds immigrant associations. MIPEX research shows that inclusive policies can decrease the gap between immigrants and citizens in terms of conventional and unconventional political participation, engagement, trust and satisfaction.
- Permanent residence: Favourable: Ranked in the top five on permanent residence, Sweden offers a clear and stable path to long-term security and socio-economic opportunity for non-EU residents. Temporary residents who meet basic economic and housing requirements can become permanent residents after four years. Permanent residents benefit from a secure, equal status for as long as they live in the country. MIPEX research on permanent residence suggests that inclusive residence policies help immigrants to stay long-term, settle down and secure better jobs.
- Access to nationality: Favourable: To be eligible for nationality in Sweden, ordinary applicants must have lived there for five years. The application process is straightforward and new citizens are as secure in their status as Swedish-born citizens. One of the best studied areas of integration policy, nationality policies are the strongest factor driving naturalisation rates and can also boost some immigrants’ acceptance, socio-economic status, political participation, sense of belonging and trust.
- Anti-discrimination: Favourable: Ranked first for anti-discrimination alongside several other European countries, Sweden’s laws protect everyone against ethnic, racial, religious and nationality-based discrimination in all areas of life. Victims benefit from relatively strong law-enforcement mechanisms, receive information on their rights and can open legal cases against perpetrators of all kinds of discrimination. The country has a single, strong equality body and active state measures. The slow expansion of anti-discrimination policies across most MIPEX countries appears to have had a long-term impact on reshaping public attitudes, awareness, reporting and trust in institutions, as well as society and democracy more generally. The EU-MIDIS 2016 survey found that immigrants who are discriminated against in Sweden are more likely to know their rights and report the incident to authorities than in most other EU countries.