Country report on multilevel dynamics – Sweden

This report looks at multilevel governance dynamics and at the integration policies targeting post-2014 migrants developed by six small and medium-sized towns and rural areas in Sweden. Primarily based on interviews conducted in each of the selected municipalities, it provides an overview of

1) national, regional, and local integration policies targeting migrants in Sweden;
2) policymaking relations among the key actors involved in these policy processes in the six localities and key features of policy networks within which these actors interact;
3) how these actors perceive and define integration.

The report finds that the centralized governance of Swedish integration policy limits municipalities’ flexibility in developing locally specific policies. Within these confines, however, municipalities differ in how much they go beyond their core obligations, in how broadly or narrowly they approach integration, and in the degree to which they centralize or decentralize the preparation and implementation of integration-related tasks. Some municipalities approach integration purely as a question of labour market integration, while others take a broader perspective that also includes integration in social and cultural activities. These tasks are performed either through specialized agencies, or delegated across the municipal organization through steering documents. While all municipalities carry out the majority of their tasks in-house, they sometimes involve civil society and private sector actors as consulting bodies and service providers. Since 2014, conflicts have developed between actors at the local level, primarily the municipal governments and civil agencies, and state-level actors (the Migration Agency, the Public Employment Service, and the national government). These conflicts revolve around the perception that state-level actors fail to fulfil their functions in the existing multi-level governance structure, that they are inattentive to local challenges, and that the uneven rate of immigration and government funding creates obstacles for local policy implementation. In response, some local governments have scaled back their organization of integration policy implementation while others have come to develop local policies, primarily regarding labour market activation, which effectively overlap with state-level agencies’ responsibilities. Whereas the former strategy sees local governments abandoning active local integration policy, the latter shows how local government agencies can expand their integration policies to overlap with what are formally state-level responsibilities.

Authors: Henrik Emilsson, Måns Lundstedt, Linnéa Adebjörk, Matts Anvin, Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy & Mimmi Åkesson
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