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Initiatives in the spring budget for more efficient introduction and reduced unemployment
In the spring amending budget for 2016, the Government is strengthening efforts to enable newly arrived immigrants to quickly and efficiently establish themselves in Sweden. The Government is investing in early measures for asylum seekers and increased funds for county administrative boards to create preparedness and reception capacity in municipalities. The Government is also announcing that trainee jobs will be expanded to also cover newly arrived immigrants and people who are long-term unemployed. The spring amending budget for 2016 is based on an agreement between the Government and the Left Party.
The number of asylum seekers in 2015 significantly exceeded the assumptions on which the Budget Bill for 2016 was based. It is therefore the Government's assessment that further funds need to be provided and a range of measures need to be taken to handle the current situation, including measures to facilitate the introduction of newly arrived immigrants.
Early measures for asylum seekers
The large number of asylum seekers who came to Sweden in 2015 has led to many asylum seekers having to wait ever longer for a decision on a residence permit. It is important that the time the person spends in the asylum process is put to use meaningfully and efficiently for the purpose of making future introduction easier. This also applies to persons with a residence permit still living in accommodation centres while waiting to be received by a municipality.
Coordination of early measures – a task for county administrative boards
The Government intends to task county administrative boards, from 2017, with coordinating and organising early measures for asylum seekers and others. The coordinating role of county administrative boards will be made easier by their existing structures for regional and national cooperation. In light of the county administrative boards' new assignment, the Swedish Migration Agency's assignment concerning activities for asylum seekers will change. From 2017, the Swedish Migration Agency will no longer be responsible for organised activities for asylum seekers that aim to strengthen their knowledge of the Swedish language and other measures to promote introduction. The changed division of responsibilities will increase the chances for asylum seekers and others to access regional and locally adapted early measures.
In its Spring Fiscal Policy Bill, the Government is announcing that, from 2017, SEK 72 million will be moved from the Swedish Migration Agency to the county administrative boards' administrative appropriation. The Government also proposes that the county administrative boards' administrative appropriation be increased by SEK 10 million in 2016 in order to begin developing the organisation and structure of the new assignment.
Funds to county administrative boards for language learning programmes
The Government proposes an increase of the county administrative boards' administrative appropriation by SEK 10 million in 2016 to provide a digital language learning package with the aim of strengthening asylum seekers' knowledge of the Swedish language.
Early skills assessment for asylum seekers
To improve the introduction of newly arrived immigrants in the labour market, the Government wants skills assessment, i.e. assessment of newly arrived immigrants' educational background and work experience, to be offered by the Swedish Public Employment Service during their asylum-seeking period. The Government therefore proposes that a total of SEK 90 million be given to the Swedish Public Employment Service in 2016 to develop and provide skills assessment for asylum seekers. From 2017, this task should be permanently incorporated in the Swedish Public Employment Service's activities. Skills assessment can ensure that recruitment needs primarily in welfare areas are better satisfied.
Increased funds for refugee guides
It should be possible for several different actors, not least civil society organisations, to carry out early measures for asylum seekers. In its spring amending budget, the Government proposes an additional SEK 25 million in 2016 for measures for refugee guides and family contacts, and an expansion of the target group to also include asylum seekers. The proposal enables municipalities and civil society to jointly offer meaningful activities for asylum seekers, such as providing civic information.
Special measures in liberal adult education
There is great need for activities that can give asylum seekers and newly arrived immigrants still living at accommodation centres meaningful occupation during the asylum-seeking period and that can speed up future introduction for those who are granted a residence permit. The Government therefore proposes an additional SEK 97 million be set aside for special measures in liberal adult education in 2016 (SEK 25 million to folk high schools and SEK 72 million to study associations) for activities that aim to strengthen knowledge of the Swedish language and of society, and promote participation in society for asylum seekers and people who have been granted a residence permit but are still living at an accommodation centre. Financing increased funding for study associations will be done by reducing appropriations to the Swedish Migration Agency by SEK 72 million.
Sustainable reception and more efficient introduction
Increased funds for county administrative boards' work on the reception of unaccompanied minors and newly arrived immigrants
County administrative boards are tasked with ensuring preparedness and capacity in municipalities to receive unaccompanied minors and newly arrived immigrants. The large number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum means there is a great need for measures particularly focused on this target group. In the spring amending budget, the Government therefore proposes that county administrative boards have SEK 30 million at their disposal for these measures in 2016.
To support municipalities wanting to develop activities to make it easier to rent out housing to newly arrived immigrants, the Government assesses that there is a need to increase funds by SEK 10 million for county administrative boards' work to create preparedness and reception capacity in municipalities.
Increased funds for compensation to municipalities for special costs for the reception of newly arrived immigrants
Municipalities' needs for special costs compensation for the reception of newly arrived immigrants increase as the number of people received increases. Compensation is granted subject to the availability of funds, and SEK 60 million have been set aside for this purpose in 2016. So as to enable municipalities to receive compensation for special costs for newly arrived immigrants, the Government proposes that the appropriation for such compensation be increased by SEK 80 million.
The Swedish Migration Agency to take over settlement responsibility from the Swedish Public Employment Service
It is proposed that as of 1 January 2017, the Swedish Migration Agency take over the Swedish Public Employment Service's responsibility to assign newly arrived immigrants to municipalities pursuant to the Act on the reception of certain newly arrived immigrants for settlement. In its Spring Fiscal Policy Bill, the Government is announcing that, from 2017, SEK 30 million will be moved from the Swedish Public Employment Service to the Swedish Migration Agency's administrative appropriation. The Government proposes that the Agency's appropriation be increased by SEK 20 million in 2016 so that the Agency can take preparatory measures.
Standard reimbursement for unaccompanied minors
The large increase in the number of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in 2015 has led to a considerable challenge for municipalities. The Government considers that the current system of compensation to municipalities for the reception of unaccompanied minors and young people is not efficient. The Government will therefore report back with proposals intended to simplify the regulatory framework, improve municipalities' planning conditions, reduce the administrative burden and increase cost effectiveness. Compensation for the reception of unaccompanied minors and young people should consist more extensively of standard reimbursement than is now the case. The Government intends to give municipalities better opportunities to find cost-effective housing forms that fit the individual needs of unaccompanied minors, thus leading to increased flexibility in terms of municipalities' reception.
Trainee jobs will cover newly arrived immigrants
Better possibilities for combining employment and education can help newly arrived immigrants to more quickly find work. The Government therefore intends to expand trainee jobs to also cover newly arrived immigrants.
The introduction system will be made more effective
There is a need to improve the introduction system to get more people into jobs. Just under one third of people who have completed introduction activities have a job or take part in regular education. An inquiry is under way in the Government Offices to simplify and streamline the introduction system through reduced administration and increased flexibility.
The Government's work to speed up the introduction of newly arrived immigrants on the labour market is ongoing and the Government will report back in the Budget Bill for 2017 with proposals for further measures.
Unemployment must fall
The Government's objective is that Sweden will have the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020. This is an ambitious objective and poses great challenges for policy. The Swedish labour market is performing strongly and unemployment rates fell significantly in 2015. However, the level of unemployment remains too high and the positive trend still does not benefit everyone. The increased number of asylum seekers coming to Sweden means that many people who have been in the country for a short time are entering the labour force. Over the next few years it is expected that the fallback in unemployment will start to slow. This amplifies the need for a broad job agenda with active measures in a range of policy areas.
The Government's job agenda consists of three main parts: activities for increased competencies and an active labour market policy, investments in housing and infrastructure, and an active business policy for more and growing companies throughout the country. Investments in common welfare and a quicker introduction of newly arrived immigrants are also important aspects of the Government's job policy. The Government intends to report back with proposals for further steps by Sweden to achieve the objective of the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020.
Jobs and education for unemployed young people
Combating youth unemployment is one of the Government's most important promises. In 2015, youth unemployment decreased significantly and is now at more or less the same level as before the financial crisis. Despite the favourable development in the labour market, it remains difficult for young people who lack the relevant education to find a job. To enable more young people to gain a steady foothold in the labour market, the Government is investing in trainee jobs that combine jobs with relevant vocational education and training, and education contracts that will encourage young people to complete upper secondary education.
The Government gives priority to measures for young people who are very detached from the labour market. A combination of jobs and studies is an effective approach to inducing more young people without upper secondary education to complete their studies. For this reason, the Government considers that it should also be possible to employ young people who have not completed upper secondary education in trainee jobs.
Trainee jobs will cover people who are long-term unemployed
Long-term unemployment must decrease further, and the Government will discontinue phase 3. Since 1 February, new individuals are no longer assigned to employment placements. People who have been registered in the job and development guarantee scheme for more than 450 days will instead be given access to any labour market policy measures that can improve their prospects of finding a job. It is expected that the possibility of combining a job with relevant education will make it easier for people who are long-term unemployed to return to the labour market. The Government therefore intends to expand trainee jobs to also cover people who are long-term unemployed.
The Government has recently taken a decision to task the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, in cooperation with the Swedish Public Employment Service, with implementing a three-year initiative in which a total of SEK 60 million will be provided to measures to promote jobs for people who are long-term unemployed, through social enterprises for integration in working life. The Government considers that there is a need for additional measures to further reduce long-term unemployment and will report back with more proposals for measures.
On 13 April the Government presented its 2016 Spring Fiscal Policy Bill to the Riksdag, together with an amending budget for 2016.