Since 1 January 2018, the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) has a new regulatory framework for its establishment assignment. The Government believed that the framework that applied up to that point had become too rigid and inefficient. The purpose of the new framework is therefore to give the Public Employment Service better opportunities to work in a flexible and efficient way with the establishment of newly arrived immigrants.
The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has been commissioned by the Government to analyse how the Public Employment Service has implemented the new framework into its operations and to follow up on whether the framework has had the expected effects so far.
The regulatory framework has been relatively well-implemented despite challenges
Statskontoret concludes that the Public Employment Service has implemented the new framework relatively well, despite several challenges. The Public Employment Service has completed the steps of the implementation that we consider necessary for the new regulations to have an impact in the operations. For example, it has analysed what the new regulations mean for the operations, developed support for the employment officers in applying the regulations, and communicated this to relevant parts of the organisation.
Difficulties in interpreting and applying the obligation to provide education
The new regulatory framework includes an obligation to educate newly arrived immigrants with limited education. The Public Employment Service has had ample room to interpret what this obligation entails, which has been a challenge in the implementation of the new framework. The Public Employment Service has gradually clarified that all types of work are prioritised ahead of education. Given this interpretation, the obligation to provide education may fail to have any major impact. We therefore find that the Government should clarify the purpose of the obligation to provide education.
The Public Employment Service has also failed to make it clear to employment officers how to apply the obligation to provide education. Only around 40 per cent of employment officers feel that they understand how the obligation is to be applied. A significantly higher proportion, 70 per cent, understand how to apply other new regulations. In some cases, the employment offices have also made their own interpretations of how to apply this obligation to provide education. This can for example lead to newly arrived immigrants not being offered equal support by the Public Employment Service. We therefore find that the Public Employment Service needs to ensure that its implementation of the obligation to provide education is consistent.
Little effect on flexibility and efficiency in the workplace
The new framework has so far had little effect on the Public Employment Service's flexibility and efficiency. One reason for this is that employment officers do not feel that their ability to adapt measures has increased. There are also indications that the measures are not sufficiently adapted to the newly arrived immigrants' needs, and around 20 per cent of participants have not received any decision regarding measures. We believe that the Public Employment Service should investigate the reasons for this.
Another reason is that the Public Employment Service sometimes has trouble utilising the increased sanctions to get newly arrived immigrants to participate in establishment measures. This is in turn due to the Public Employment Service losing oversight of the immigrants' participation in measures and general shortcomings in the agency's control of participants in labour market policy programmes.
A third reason is that the employment officers' total administrative load has not decreased, mainly due to the new regulations being implemented in the Public Employment Service's existing IT system. We assess that the employment officers' administrative load can be reduced in a few years time if the Public Employment Service's IT development work continues as planned.
The new regulatory framework has had the expected effect that jobseekers are treated more equally regardless of the target group they may belong to. The fact that the same rules now apply to newly arrived immigrants as to other jobseekers helps ease the transition to other labour market policy programmes, following the end of the establishment programme. At the same time, the obligation to provide education only applies to newly arrived immigrants. This is a particular regulation that contradicts the Government's intention of treating jobseekers more equally.
The obligation to provide education has had little effect on newly arrived immigrants' participation in education
We find that the obligation to provide education has so far not had any major effect on newly arrived immigrants' participation in education. Only 4 per cent of newly arrived immigrants subject to the obligation are participating in municipal adult education at a basic level, and around 1 per cent at an upper-secondary school level. These numbers do not differ significantly from other participants in the establishment programme.
The weak impact of the obligation can be attributed to the fact that municipalities have not yet adapted their range of education to the needs and preconditions of the newly arrived immigrants. The Public Employment Service refers newly arrived immigrants to municipal adult education in order to influence the education on offer. Statskontoret finds that it is questionable if this will have the expected outcome, given factors such as the shortage of teachers and economic resources in the municipalities. We therefore find that the Government should follow up on whether an increased number of referrals leads to the municipalities adapting their education on offer to a greater extent.
There is a risk of the new regulations leaving individuals stranded
The new framework risks leaving individuals stranded between different authorities. One risk is that it can be hard for newly arrived immigrants to understand information about the regulations and that the threat of sanctions therefore does not help them approach the labour market. We therefore find that the Government should clarify the Public Employment Service's role in supporting newly arrived immigrants in their establishment process.
Another risk is that the Public Employment Service's referrals to municipal adult education cause problems for individual immigrants as many municipalities have yet to adapt their range of education to the needs of this target group. This can lead to individuals being referred back and forth between the Public Employment Service and the municipality.
Finally, we find that the establishment assignment's goal of establishing individuals in society risks being subordinated to the goal of establishment in the labour market, as the new regulatory framework focuses on employment services. We therefore find that the Government should clarify how the Public Employment Service is to work to establish newly arrived immigrants in society.
The Swedish Agency for Public Management's proposal
In order for the regulatory framework to have the expected outcome in the long term, it is important that the Public Employment Service continues its general change efforts, especially with regards to its IT system, and that it strengthens its general control efforts.
Additionally, Statskontoret proposes that the Public Employment Service
- ensures that its application of the obligation to provide education is sufficiently consistent
- follows up on programme participants who have not received a decision regarding an activity, and investigates the reasons for the lack of such a decision.
To facilitate the Public Employment Service's work and clarify the expectations that it has of the agency, Statskontoret proposes that the Government
- clarifies the purpose of the obligation to provide education and the role that the Public Employment Service shall have in the implementation of this obligation
- follows up on the effects that the Public Employment Service's referrals to municipal adult education have on the range of offered municipal education and the newly arrived immigrants' participation in education
- clarifies the role that the Public Employment Service shall have when it comes to supporting newly arrived immigrants in their establishment process and clarifies how the Public Employment Service shall work to promote the newly arrived immigrants' establishment in society.