Destination employment? : Contradictions and ambiguities in Swedish labour market policy for newly arrived migrants

Sammanfattning: Sweden’s “establishment reform” was introduced in 2010 with the ambition to increase the labour market participation of newly arrived migrants. It was in line with other labour market policies of the centre-right Alliance government, elected in 2006, which aimed to increase work incentives particularly for groups seen as “vulnerable” in, or excluded from, the labour market.By considering the history of ALMP and policies of migration linked to the labour market, the establishment reform can be seen as building both on earlier initiatives targeting certain groups, as well as the investment ambitions of labour market training programmes. At the same time, the integration approach to migration, developed by successive Social Democratic governments, has also largely been integrated through this reform. Thus, the establishment reform combines both social and labour market goals, leading to contradictions and ambiguities at the policy level and in practice.In this thesis I consider how the establishment reform combined workfare and social investment elements, including social support ambitions, through a qualitative study of its policy ambitions, organisational challenges and practical consequences, using documentary analysis, interviews and close to 200 individual cases from the Public Employment Service.It is argued that the ambiguities of the policy are present in the twin goals of workfare and social investment: above all, how to combine the disciplinary elements of active participation – positive and negative economic incentives to enter the labour market quickly – with the long-term goals of upskilling to improve the quality of employment, particularly in combination with the ambition to provide “individualised” support and to empower individuals.At the organisational level, these contradictions are played out in practice through the interactions between the individual participants and employment officers at the Public Employment Service, as well as private sector “establishment guides”. Here, the social needs of the participants achieve prominence, making it more difficult to focus on the reform’s work-first principles. This prioritisation on the ground can be defended by the policy’s stated goal to focus on the individual.A closer analysis at how the measures fit the group of newly arrived migrants is achieved through the construction of five “types” within the group. The trajectories of each type are explored, showing the different opportunities and difficulties they encounter through the establishment period, and how the measures are more suitable to some types than others.