Seminar & Panel Discussion at Swedish Embassy in Washington, 2017-10-26
Four larger topics were covered at the seminar in Washington: the relationship between integration and the work of creating sustainable societies, the role of management in immigrants’ labour market integration and the role of residential segregation in integrating immigrants into the labour market, and the similarities and differences between labour market integration of refugees and other immigrants in the United States and in Sweden.
Susanne Urban began by sketching the situation in Sweden against the backdrop of developments from the integration of labour migrants of the 1960s and 1970s to the so called “refugee crisis” of 2015 – from assimilation and the melting pot to a pluralistic society. She pointed out the need to view integration not as a one way process, but as a societal process that involves immigrants and established persons. She acknowledged however that .in reality integration often meant the integration of the newcomers into the majority. While this could be seen as unproblematic when talking about economic integration and integration into welfare-rights, it becomes highly problematic when talking about social and cultural integration. Integration, Susanne argued, is about democracy and how to make the society democratic for all.
Mine Islar corroborated Susanne’s views by pointing towards the need for a broader collaboration between governments, business and civil society as a condition for a meaningful integration of refugees through the work with building sustainable societies. She discussed briefly the concept of ecological citizenship emphasizing a need to go beyond territorial and nation-based understandings of political belonging as a basis for integration.
Andreas Diedrich highlighted the role of management in immigrants’ labour market integration in Sweden. He mentioned some of the consequences that various forms of organizing and management (e.g. actions, practices, routines, processes, etc.) produce in the context of labour market integration of refugees and other immigrants. For example, the demands put on many integration projects to show quantitative results in terms of number of immigrants supported into some form of employment may mean that projects become organized based on the needs of the project, not the target group for the activities.
Ahmad Ezzadine, finally, shifted focus from Sweden onto the United States and used the example of his home state of Michigan and the developments following the decline of the car industry in Detroit as a way of highlighting the value of immigrants to the economy. Michigan could not survive without its large immigrant communities and their integration into the labour market proceeds along very pragmatic lines.
Many refugees and other immigrants quickly entering lower skilled jobs before advancing into more qualified occupations.This was a very different picture from the situation in Sweden where lower skilled jobs have all but disappeared and immigrants are barred from entering the labour market in the first place through at times outlandish requirements for skills and competence.