Social Cohesion in Sweden At Risk Due to Rising Inequalities and Unease with Growing Diversity

STOCKHOLM—Though few Swedes from the majority population feel marginalized, there are signs that this is changing, with inequality on the rise and labor market participation decreasing for those with less education. Added to these practical challenges is the feeling of some in the majority population that Sweden’s immigrant population is weakening Swedish values and the Swedish way of life.

These are some of the conclusions drawn in the report Europe’s White Working Class Communities in Stockholm, written by Tobias Hübinette and Charlotte Hyltén-Cavallius as part of the Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project.

Europe’s White Working Class Communities, launched by the Open Society Foundations, examines the daily experiences of six communities from the majority population in Western Europe, including Stockholm, and their views on a range of issues including employment, health, education, housing, politics, and media.

“The Stockholm study focuses on southern Botkyrka in Greater Stockholm but its findings are likely to echo experiences around the country,” commented Nazia Hussain, director of Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project. “Residents in southern Botkyrka enjoy more economic stability than others around Europe, but this can’t be taken for granted, particularly among people from parts of the majority population where educational achievement is dropping.”

The report also found:

  • Community well-being, civic engagement, employment, and education are all crucial in helping to reduce marginalization;
  • Civic engagement can be further enhanced by ensuring residents can properly raise their concerns and achieve real impact on local policies and services;
  • Engagement can be more inclusive by encouraging participation by immigrants and young people; health, housing, security, community activities, and welcoming public spaces all help to strengthen communities;
  • A renewal of Swedish identity based on its long standing commitment to equality and human rights is needed alongside a greater recognition and acknowledgement of Sweden’s growing diversity;
  • More action needed to ensure that majority Swedes are comfortable with the new reality of an increasingly diverse population.

“Sweden must not take its positive track record on welcoming new immigrants for granted. Ensuring access to the labor market for all residents is key to reducing and preventing marginalization in Stockholm and elsewhere in Sweden,” commented Charlotte Hyltén-Cavallius, co-author. “This applies to people from minority and majority communities.”

“This is an important report which addresses pressing issues. I look forward to follow the debates which the findings of the report will hopefully generate,” says Dr Lisa Pelling, chief analyst at the independent think tank Arena Idé.

Notes:

  • White Working Class Communities in Stockholm is part of a six-city research series, Europe’s White Working Class Communities, by the Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project, which documents the experiences of “white” communities in six cities across Europe: Aarhus, Amsterdam, Berlin, Lyon, Manchester, and Stockholm.
  • The report used qualitative research methods, including interviews with key stakeholders at the city and national level, focus group discussions with majority Swedes and existing expert analysis. The research for this report was carried out from the beginning of February 2013 through to the end of May 2014. This is the first report of its kind examining the majority population on these issues.
  • The At Home in Europe project, part of the Open Society Foundations, works to advance equality for groups that are excluded from mainstream civic, political, and cultural life in a changing Europe. At Home in Europe advocates for change with grassroots civil society groups, policy makers, practitioners, and residents in 20 cities in Western Europe.
  • The lead researchers for this report are Dr. Tobias Hubinette and Charlotte Hylten-Cavallius from the Multicultural Centre in Stockholm, with help from their colleagues Nina Edstrom, Michael Morberg, Anna Tulin Brett, Marcel Moritz, and Emilie Sundbom. The Open Society Foundations are solely responsible for the content of the report.

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The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.