Subscribe to the latest news from the Nordic Labour Journal by e-mail. The newsletter is issued 9 times a year. Subscription is free of charge.

You are here: Home i News i News 2012 i OECD: Sweden has the most immigrants - Iceland has the most jobs for them

OECD: Sweden has the most immigrants - Iceland has the most jobs for them

| Text: Björn Lindahl

Sweden has the highest proportion of immigrants. Iceland, where the number of immigrants has doubled in ten years, is fast reaching the same level.

Despite their many similarities, the Nordic countries differ in terms of how large a proportion of their populations were born abroad. According to OECD statistics, Sweden has the largest proportion of immigrants at 14 percent of the population, while Finland comes bottom with four percent.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has 34 member countries. Most of them have seen a sharp rise in immigration in between 2000 and 2010. On average ten percent of OECD citizens have foreign backgrounds. The number of immigrants in Spain has tripled, while it has doubled in Ireland and Iceland.

Sweden 14 % 62 %
Iceland 11 % 76 %
Norway 11 % 67 %
Denmark 8 % 66 %
Finland 4 % 62 %


OECD’s new integration indicators allow for a percentage overview over the number of immigrants to the Nordic countries and how many of them are employed (above).

The OECD countries with the highest proportion of immigrants is Luxembourg (37%), Australia (26 %) and Switzerland (24 %). In later years there has been an increase in university educated immigrants.

“Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have all seen sharp increases in the proportion of university educated graduates among recent immigrants. But southern European countries and Ireland have all seen a sharp fall in the share of the highly educated among new arrivals,” the OECD writes. 

The rise in university education is one of the reasons employment among immigrants has risen.

“Employment rates have risen in nearly every country over the past decade to reach an average of around 65%, just 2.6 percentage points lower than for the native-born. The increases were particularly sizeable among immigrant women,” the OECD report continues. 

Employment figures among immigrants have fallen only in countries which have been hardest hit by the financial crisis. In Spain the number has fallen from 62 to 57 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Important for children to arrive early

Children who arrive in a new country early in life do better than those who are 11 to 16 years old, according to reading tests from PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment which is carried out in OECD countries. Those who are younger than six when they arrive do best. 

In Sweden, Iceland, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Israel the difference between children arriving early and those arriving late shows the older children to be 18 months behind their expected level.

“Starting school early in their country of adoption is essential and governments need to encourage immigrants who plan to settle to bring their families early,” the OECD writes.

Use for getting more subscribers, with:


Receive Nordic Labour Journal's newsletter nine times a year. It's free.

This is themeComment