Income Trajectories of Refugees in Sweden

Helen Eriksson, Stockholm University, Demography Unit
Hernan Mondani, Stockholm University
Gerda Neyer, Stockholm University, Demography Unit

The vast increase of asylum seekers in Europe during recent years has revived debates about their integration into European labor markets and their socio-economic well-being in the long run. We investigate whether economic conditions in the refuge country when the refugees sought asylum affected their entry into the labor market and their long-term income development. We use Swedish register data to trace the income trajectories of Chilean, Iranian, and Bosnian refugees who entered Sweden during the oil crisis (1974), the expansion of the Swedish welfare state (1980), and the 1990s economic crisis (1994), respectively. We apply sequence analysis, and look at the refugees’ income development over a period of 15 years starting from the year after they arrived in Sweden. We distinguish between periods of no income-generating activity, studies, or receiving low, medium, or high income. Considering only the clusters with income-generating activities over a substantial part of our observation period, we find some marked differences in the income patterns of our refugee groups. More than a fourth of the Chilean refugees managed to start work in Sweden in occupations with medium income, and they could retain this income or even increase it to high level within a few years after arrival. A larger share of the Iranians than of the Chileans entered the labor market shortly after arrival, but mostly in low-income occupations. On average, they also remained longer within the low income sector. Bosnian refugee had the longest job-search process and the most varied income patterns among our refugee groups. Although more detailed analyses are still necessary, these preliminary results indicate that there exists an association between the initial economic conditions in the country, the duration of initial job search and the first income level reached, and the possibilities to retain or to advance income levels over time.

Presented in Session 42: Labor Market Participation and Income Trajectories of Immigrants