Senior politicians: scrap SFI

Svenska för Invandrare (SFI), the free Swedish courses offered to all immigrants to Sweden, should be scrapped and replaced with individually tailored language training, a cross-party group of senior politicians has said.

Immigrant language courses should be more focused on the needs of working life, according to Ilmar Reepalu, the Social Democratic chairman of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities, and Henrik Hammar, the Moderate vice-chairman of the Federation of Swedish County Councils.

“The aim of language training must be to enable the individual to market his or her competences, and find work as soon as possible,” the pair wrote along with other senior local politicians in Thursday’s Dagens Nyheter.

Only half of all men who migrated to Sweden at the end of the 1990s had a job five years later. For women, the figure was between 30 and 40 percent. Reforms to SFI are aimed at changing this pattern.

Reepalu and Hammar are also demanding reforms to the payments local authorities receive for accepting refugees.

Today, 90 percent of the money local authorities receive from central government is spent on welfare payments. The remainder is supposed to finance language training, education and interpreters. There is rarely money over to finance support for immigrants in integrating into society or the employment market.

The failure of the introduction system leads to failure for the whole of Sweden’s integration system, the pair claim. Something must be done soon to solve the problem, they demand.

Joining the pair in authoring the article are Lars Isaksson, the Social Democratic head of the county council federation, and Anders Knape of the Moderate Party, who serves as second vice-chair of the Association of Local Authorities.