Newly arrived women integrate to the Nordic labour market considerably slower than newly arrived men. This is likely due to a combination of incentive structures that limit the individual’s labour force participation and the way the Nordic labour market is structured; generally requiring high levels of education, qualifications and language skills. The exclusion of such a large group of people from the labour market is a multifaceted problem, but there are ways to support the integration of newly arrived women.

Oxford Research conducted a cross-Nordic study commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers to identify specific challenges newly arrived women face in the Nordic countries. The study included an overview of existing literature on the issue, statistical analysis and five cases studies of successful measures targeting newly arrived women in different Nordic countries.

A great deal of research already exists on the topic of labour market integration of foreign-born individuals. This is, however, a very large and heterogenous group with differing prerequisites and needs. The report focuses on the group “newly arrived women”, here defined as women who have been granted residence permits in a Nordic country on the basis of refugee status or due to the need for subsidiary protection, or as relative to a person with either of those statuses. In the study a person to be newly arrived for a maximum of five years after being granted a residence permit.

The employment levels of newly arrived women and newly arrived men are lower than those of Nordic-born women and men. Newly arrived women’s participation is, however, especially low and continues to be low several years after the term “newly arrived” has ceased to be an accurate description of their status.

The research found that there several reasons for this:

  • Individuals with a great responsibility for childcare risk falling outside the public introduction programmes. Furthermore, foreign-born women in the Nordics use childcare to a lesser extent than domestic born women.
  • Lack of work experience and necessary qualifications is one of the most concrete obstacles for newly arrived women to participate in the Nordic labour market.
  • Lacking the relevant language skills is also an important barrier and has proven to affect women’s chances of employment more than men’s.
  • The mapping of the national integration measures reveals that gender-specific measures are rare. Gender equality and gender sensitivity may be included in policy documents but are hard to trace in the implementation and concrete activities.

The primary tools used by the Nordic countries to make sure these obstacles can be overcome are the introduction programmes. However, this study found that these programmes only meet these women’s needs to a limited extent. The study therefore concludes with the following recommendations:

  • Access to childcare is vital. Short queues and availability on evenings, nights and weekends should be secured to allow for labour market participation.
  • Stereotypical perceptions of gender should be counteracted and women’s participation in labour market preparatory activities on equal footing as men must be ensured.
  • Alternative integration paths need to be developed for those who are not able to participate in the labour market directly when arriving in a Nordic country.
  • More research on a national level about newly arrived women’s needs, skills and participation in introductory activities is needed to improve integration.

The complete report is in Swedish with English summary and can be downloaded by clicking the picture below: