Refugee women become employed faster in the Nordic countries

OECDShahnaz Fadaie (L), Paruin Joma, Berrin Straume, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg.Photo: Marit Hommedal / NTB scanpix

Introductory programs help refugee women get faster into jobs in Norway and Sweden than in other European countries a research report shows.


The report has been prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Kristian Tronstad at the City and Regional Research Institute at Oslo Met.

According to figures from 2016, approximately 45% of female refugees were employed after 6-10 years of residence in Norway. It is higher than countries such as Germany (20%) and Austria (18%) which do not have measures to qualify and integrate refugees to an equal extent.

The Scandinavian countries stand out with a comprehensive introductory program compared with other countries in Europe Tronstad stated.

“It’s not that the refugees coming to Norway are easier to integrate,” he said.

More in work after a few years

40-45% of refugees in Europe are women, and several factors make barriers higher for them than men: they often have little or no education, they struggle more to learn the language and have poorer health.They also have smaller networks, and there are many who give birth to children shortly after arrival. Employment among male refugees is higher than for women.

Tronstad pointed out that employment among refugee women in Norway is low for the first two to three years, but that it then rises rapidly with longer residence time.

“Although women have low formal competence and come to a Norwegian labour market with high standards of formal competence and education, many of them still work,” said Tronstad.

Nevertheless, it is a fact that the employment for refugee women never reaches the same level as other women in Norway and Sweden.

Worth the investment

The introductory programs in the Nordic countries are mandatory both for women and men who are allowed to reside as refugees. Equally extensive programs are not available in other European countries.

According to Tronstad and OECD economist Thomas Liebig, the recent report shows that it is worth investing in such qualifying programs.

“Even though refugee women face a number of barriers to getting into work,this report shows that language training and competence raising help more refugees to qualify for a job in the Norwegian labour market,” said Tronstad.


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