Sweden has long been a harbor for those fleeing war. Last year the country took in 160,000 refugees, many from Middle Eastern countries, the most per capita of any European country. NPR makes the point that the hard work doesn’t stop with emigration but just as vital is integrating these new residents into local society.
Once refugees are granted asylum, sixty hours of instruction are provided on how to live in Sweden. Taught in the refugee’s native languages, the lessons include how to get a job and pay bills. “It’s basically how to live and survive in Sweden,” says Henrik Lovgren, who runs the government-funded program. “Rules, culture, regulations. And also what obligations you have towards society, towards your neighbors, and responsibility as a person, as a parent, as a fellow citizen.”
Sweden’s population is aging out on the job front which means opportunity for the new citizens. “In a way, it’s good for Sweden.” says Erik Nilsson, the State Secretary for Employment. “Because we do need to have a workforce, and the ones that are coming are mostly in productive ages. I mean, most of them are 20 to 40 years old, which means that they have a long professional life ahead of them.”