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Celikaksoy & Wadensjö, 2019 🔗

Refugee Youth in Sweden who Arrived as Unaccompanied Minors and Separated Children

Year: 2017

Type of text: Vetenskaplig Artikel 

Published by:  Journal of Refugee Studies

Language: English

Author: Aycan Celikaksoy & Eskil Wadensjö

Pages: 24

Available at:

Short description of text 

This study examines the labour market situation of the whole population of the refugee youth who entered Sweden as unaccompanied minors or separated children and were registered during the years 2003–12. We investigate whether this group is in a disadvantageous situation regarding labour-market incorporation compared to their counterparts who arrived with their families due to their specific marginalized and vulnerable position within society.

Most important results

– ‘Women are less often employed than men’ (p. 538).

– ‘Those who have been registered (in the population register) longer, given their age and other characteristics, are more likely to be employed. (539)

– ‘Those who have completed high school are more often employed than those with a shorter education.Those undergoing education are, as excepted, less often employed (although many young people of course combine work and education). The labour-market situation is markedly different in different parts of the country’ (p. 539).

– ‘The UM whose parents were reunified are less often employed, which is driven by femalesä (p. 540).

– ‘Without considering any other variables, UM are less likely to be employed. If we include sex, age and education, we see that the result is positive. UM are more likely to be employed than accompanied minors by 2.1 percentage points. This shows that the two groups compared differ with regard to their observable characteristics, where the majority of UM are male, younger and have less education accumulated in Sweden when compared to the reference category and this is the reason for the negative coefficient. This group has also been in Sweden for a shorter time than the comparison group. Thus, if we also include other characteristics, it can be seen that UM are more likely to be employed when compared to accompanied minors by 7.7 percentage points. The results point to their ability and willingness to work. The difference is not negligible. Thus, we do not find that the unobservable vulnerabilities specific to this group are reflected in terms of finding and having a job. On the contrary, we find that this group is more likely to be employed compared to their counterparts, which might be due to the differences in treatment during and after the asylum process as discussed earlier. First of all, the length of the asylum decision process is shorter for this group. Secondly, since this group cannot represent themselves legally, each individual is assigned a guardian who represents each minor and provides support in terms of legal matters so that minors do not appear in front of legal authorities alone unrepresented. Since these children do not have legal guardians, they are provided with an adult who helps and supports them with regard to issues related not only to the asylum process, but also regarding housing, education and finances. In addition, in the housing facilities, there are adults who deal with matters related to housing and several other daily activities and procedures. Thus, this group has immediate daily contact with persons from the Swedish society and are obliged to communicate and facilitate their situation both during and after the asylum process. Given the positive relationship between networks and integration generally found in the migration literature, our findings could be partly due to the fact that UM receive relatively more support from the state and due to the fact that they are faced with a situation where they have to actively take part in matters related to their situation. Furthermore, this group can also be a positively selected group who managed to complete the most difficult migration process on their own’ (p. 5423).

– ‘The findings show that length of stay in Sweden is a factor much influencing the likelihood of employment for this group: the longer an individual has been in Sweden, the more likely they are to be employed. This is probably due to factors related to education in Sweden and language proficiency, but also due to factors such as learning the customs and workings of institutions. However, the positive coefficient of the length of stay in Sweden is slightly smaller in size for females, and not significant in the case of earnings’ (p. 548). 

Theoretical perspective/framework

A structural incorporation framework from a reception and integration policy perspective as well as an immigrant wellbeing and a ‘whole-child’ approach.


Quantitative analysis of data on the entire population of UM who are registered in Sweden between 2003 and 2012, investigating labour-market-related outcomes for those who are 19–26 years of age, 10,271 observations for those who arrived as UM. This is compared with a 10 per cent random sample from the whole population of refugee youth who also arrived as children from the same countries of origin but accompanied by their parents as a comparison, a total estimation sample of 59,589.

Suggestions for further research

‘It is clear that this is a specific group who lack a familial system and the social relationships that it brings about. Thus, this group might be relatively more pressured socially, culturally and financially to send money to families who are not in Sweden and maybe also to be able to bring them to Sweden, as well as paying back to the smugglers. In addition, our findings regarding earnings may also reflect the fact that this group might be working longer hours rather than earning more per hour, as also discussed earlier in the article. Thus, further research is needed to take a closer look at the mechanisms behind these outcomes’ (p. 548).

Summarised by: Alva Nissen