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Parusel, 2020 🔗

Legal migration for work and training – Mobility options to Sweden for those not in need of protection

Year: 2020

Type of text: Report

Published by: Delmi

Language: English

Author: Bernd Parusel

Pages: 138

Available at:

Short description of text 

“This Delmi report looks at alternative pathways to work and studies for those who are not in need of protection but have few or no possibilities to enter Europe legally. The report undertakes a comprehensive empirical analysis of Swedish frameworks on legal migration for work and study purposes and their potential to create safe and orderly pathways for people that are currently entering Sweden irregularly.” (p. iii)

“The report offers ideas for reform and action but has no intention to propose an alternative to neither the Swedish asylum system nor the existing Swedish labour migration framework.” (p. iii)

“The report is part of a comparative research project, initiated and run by the Research Unit of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), in cooperation with the Migration Policy Institute Europe (MPI), and funded by Stiftung Mercator. The project’s overall aim is to scrutinise the legal migration frameworks in five EU countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden) and ask how accessible they are for migrants who are not in need of asylum. Delmi has actively supported the production of the Swedish contribution to this project and decided to publish an expanded version of the report on Sweden within its own report series.” (p. iii)

“The aim of the report is not to question the right of foreign nationals to seek asylum, but to consider possible alternatives to unsuccessful asylum claims and risky, irregular routes to Sweden. […] it engages with the performance of these frameworks when finding solutions to the challenge of irregular and unsafe migration” (p. v)

Most important results

“First, the labour immigration system has been misused by untrustworthy employers. There have been reports about employers paying their migrant workers lower wages and offering poorer working conditions than originally promised. Following the gradual introduction of stricter requirements for some businesses and more checks, this problem appears to be less frequent today than in the early years after the liberalisation of the Swedish labour immigration system. Yet this was still highlighted among some of the experts interviewed for this study.” (p. 88)

“Second, a frequent criticism is that a substantial share of labour immigration takes places in sectors where there is no shortage of domestic labour. This can allegedly lead to competition for jobs among the resident population, newly arrived refugees and their family members, and incoming labour migrants. There are different views in Swedish society and among experts as to how serious this problem is, but trade unions and politicians often mention it and question the principles of the labour immigration system.” (p. 88)

“Third, labour migrants initially have no safe perspectives of a longer-term legal stay in the country because residence and work permits are temporary during the first four years. In cases of irregularities, even minor ones, third-country workers have risked losing their right to stay as their permits can be revoked or not extended.” (p. 88)

“At the same time, there seems to be a relatively low level of ambition in Sweden when it comes to trying new approaches, such as supplementing the overall country-blind framework with labour migration arrangements with specific third countries, organised circular migration schemes, or country-specific systems to match foreign workers with jobs in Sweden. Where employers in Sweden recruit their workers is not a concern of the Swedish government or the law-maker. Their task is self-restricted to offering a legal framework that employers and migrants can use in accordance with their individual needs, possibilities and preferences. This is not necessarily a bad approach. However, considering the perspective of this study, which asks whether labour and study-related immigration can serve as a legal and safe alternative to migrating irregularly and applying for asylum without success, this is not fully satisfactory. Employers do not necessarily look towards countries that are important source countries of irregular migrants.” (p. 90)


“In the overall framework of this project [the larger research project this report is based on], a set of five country case studies (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden) were commissioned to provide a comprehensive overview of the respective domestic legal, policy and programmatic frameworks, both past and current. The analysis focuses on migration opportunities for work (particularly in the low- and medium-skilled sectors) and for vocational training and education, as relevant for third-country nationals. The case studies take stock of the current state-of-play in each state, deriving a picture of who has access to legal migration to Europe as well as the scale of that access.” (p. 4)

“This report presents the Swedish case study within the broader comparative project. It provides an in-depth analysis of how the Swedish systems for labour immigration and admission of third-country nationals for studies and other education purposes have been designed, what purposes they are intended to serve, and how these have worked.”

“Firstly, it relies on desk-research and existing literature on the Swedish regulations on legal migration, in particular labour migration and immigration for education purposes. Both academic literature and material from authorities and various national and international organisations are used, including in the background section of the study, which seems natural as the study itself targets both academics, practitioners and policy-makers.” (p. 17)

“Secondly, gaps in existing research have been filled through qualitative interviews with several experts from the Government Offices of Sweden, state authorities, the labour market partners, as well as a politician and two academics.“ (p. 17)

“Apart from qualitative material, the study also includes descriptive statistical analysis regarding the immigration of third-country nationals to Sweden for work and study purposes. The statistical data was mainly retrieved from the Swedish Migration Agency’s website.” (p. 17)

Policy suggestions

  • Job-matching, pre-arrival training and job-seeker visas
    • “[…] brought up by experts interviewed for this study, the matching of suitable workers in third countries with employers in Sweden who have vacancies is not fully satisfactory today and could be improved. […] One option to improve this would be to familiarise Swedish employers with labour markets in relevant third countries and to establish matching services for companies in Sweden to get in touch with potentially interested work migrants abroad.” (p. 95)
  • Facilitated access to studies and training
    • “To enhance or widen legal pathways to studies in Sweden, more scholarships, funded exchange programmes and bilateral cooperation could help counterbalance the effect of the introduction of tuition fees for university studies in Sweden.” (p. 96-97)
    • “More attention could also be devoted to admission options for education other than academic studies, such as vocational training or courses at folk high schools. A main barrier concerning non-academic studies in Sweden is the financial support requirement (see Section 5.6.4), which closes this route to many potential young migrants from poorer countries.” (p. 97)
  • Bilateral cooperation as a complement to the current country-blind framework
    • “More generally, bilateral cooperation on the admission of third-country workers and young people for study or training purposes might be a useful strategic complement to the existing “country-blind” framework. Under the current liberal labour migration system, which delegates the power to recruit from abroad to employers, strategic choices of countries to cooperate with at government level might appear unusual, difficult and even controversial. Many countries in Europe take a more hands-on approach.” (p. 97)

Suggestions for further research

“Overall, the policy options outlined here are explorative. Their practicalities, impacts and possible risks as well as legal, institutional and administrative requirements to put them in place would certainly need to be specified in more detail before concrete action is taken. This suggests that there is a need for further research, not least of a comparative nature and considering best practices and lessons learned by other countries in Europe.” (p. 99) 

Summarized by: Josefine Carlsson