Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Markus Thiel

First Advisor's Committee Title


Second Advisor's Name

Susanne Zwingel

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Harry Gould

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rebecca Friedman

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Immigration, Sweden, Welfare, Integration, Social Capital, Civil Society

Date of Defense



To explore the complexities of refugee labor market integration in Sweden, the research performed a multi-level analysis of refugee labor market integration: from the perspective of civil society (meso-level) and from that of the refugee (micro-level). Sweden was ideal for this task because historically, it has been Europe’s most generous welfare state and during the height of the crisis, received the highest number of refugees of any European Member State (163,000 or 1,600 per 100,000 people).

The research was guided by two primary research questions: First, how have the roles of the state and civil society adjusted over time in relation to the process of integrating refugees, especially since the founding of the first integration policy in 1975? Second, how are resources actually provided by each element of society, and accessed by the refugees themselves? Analytically, the research first performed a historical institutional breakdown, separating Sweden’s integration policy by sociopolitical and economically significant junctures: 1970-1990, 1990-2010, and 2010-present day. Subsequently, seventy first-person, semi-structured interviews were conducted with political-elites, civil society representatives, and refugees from different sending countries, who arrived no earlier than 2000. The findings suggest that while civil society is becoming more systematic in its operations, its utility remains under-utilized. Next, meeting human capital requirements (e.g., country specific and post-secondary education and training) does not guarantee employment. Instead, given the alteration of its labor market, it seems social capital may play a more significant role in determining employment outcomes for refugees. In other words, it seems difficulties in accessing employment for refugees are more attached to institutional constraints than they are human capital itself. Finally, given the visible segregation and low refugee labor market participation, the research supports the assumption that a highly accessible and comprehensive welfare state may not be the most efficient socioeconomic orientation for integrating refugees.





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