Swedish immigration

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The Swedish immigration


Before becoming one of the most important lands of immigration in Europe Sweden was from 1865 to 1925 a land of emigration. It’s common to designate the years 1887-1888 as the peak years of emigration in Sweden. Actually, a crisis broke out in the agricultural sector in Sweden and that time, the economy in the USA was flourished. Theimmigration in the USA was linked by the possibility to reach a more profitable economic situation.

Around 1940s, many countries in Europe were torn by the Second World War. They lost their infrastructures and wholly or partly their means of production. Obviously, Sweden took benefit of that great need for imports. Actually, this has been synonymous of very positive repercussions on developmentsin its industry. Moreover, this conjunction led to that big employment expanded mainly in the industrial sector. However, rapidly the lack of labour was felt to be a problem and workers started to immigrate in Sweden to participate to the economic development of the Swedish industry. As for the immigration of Swedes in the USA, it seems that this had been influenced by economic factors. Since1950s, immigration has played a major role in the economic development of Sweden. However, the link between economic development and immigration hasn’t been so obvious later on.

That is why this might be interesting to analyse how, in the next decades, the development of Swedish economy has influenced the different changes of pattern in immigration. In a first part, we will describe how thegreat period of growth that Sweden has known during the 1950s got an influence on the immigration. Then, we will see what economic turning point took place since the 1970s and how he has influenced the emergence of new pattern of immigrants.


Since the post-war years, Sweden became a land of immigration. In this 1st part, we will describe the main pattern of immigrants present inSweden since the 1950s and we will show what important link existed between the economic situation and the wave of immigration.

Obviously, the unfavourable situation of the countries which ended up with the war gave to Sweden the opportunity to develop its exports. Swedish industry knew in a great period of expansion. This economic growth combined with the shortage in the Swedish labourforce led inevitably to a very important wave of immigration. In other words, this first wave corresponded to a need of Sweden to reinforce its labour force to respond to the need of exports. At the beginning, only the Nordic citizens had a complete access to the Swedish labour market. Very soon, thanks to the cooperation between firms and the Labour Market Board it became easier for workers comingfrom outside Scandinavia to enter the Swedish labour market. In other words, the favourable economic situation led to a favourable situation for immigrants. This period of industrial expansion characterised by a high economic and industrial growth (average annual rise in GNP was 4.3%) led to a permanent excess demand for labour. Indeed, between 1950 and 1967, 95% of immigrants came in Sweden towork or accompany a worker. At that time the integration on the labour market was quick and easy. The car industry and the engineering industry are two sectors that required many skilled workers. Immigrant workers came in Sweden to fill out the lack of workers on the labour market. This is what Lundh and Ohlsson called the “complementary force”.

After 1958, the industry sector started toslow down. The needs of Europe are less important and the service sector took more importance than the industry. This led to a change of pattern in immigration. The service sector that was emerging didn’t have the same need in terms of workers and since the beginning of 1960s the start of internalization led to structural changes. Lundh and Ohlsson make out a difference in the business cycles....
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