EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

City of Stockholm, Sweden: Integration into the labour market of people at risk of exclusion – early school-leavers


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Public sector
integrating people at risk of exclusion into the labour market

As there is a shortage of young employees in the City of Stockholm, the municipality has introduced a new initiative to encourage young people into employment. In phase one of the initiative, 85 persons aged 20–24 years who were unemployed for more than three months were offered complementary training supported by trained supervisors. The programme’s second phase took on 30 early school-leavers aged 18–20 years. After six months’ training and six months’ trial employment, 55% of the first stage participants are employed while 15% are pursuing studies.

Organisational background

The City of Stockholm is one of 270 local municipalities in Sweden with operations in areas like childcare, comprehensive schooling, care of the elderly, social services, city road and park administration, the running of community centres like museums, as well as public areas. At present, the City has 48,000 employees working in local district councils in 18 townships. Some operations are run by special committees and community-owned companies.

Each district and specialised committee is governed by a political board such as a district or committee council. There is a clear division of leadership between the politically appointed board and the administrative management. A central strategic unit exists for human resource management (HRM) but many of the operational human resources (HR) issues are handled by each district or special committee.

The workers are represented by a number of different trade unions, including the municipality union, the union for administrative officers, organisational experts, administrators and middle management, two unions for teachers, the nurses union and also unions belonging to the academic confederation representing social workers, information technology (IT) personnel or economists. Overall, about 90% of employees are members of trade unions.

Employment terms are mostly defined by central collective agreements based on the national agreements. The City has its own job security agreement, which focuses on avoiding dismissals. In relation to youth employment, a specific agreement has been drafted to recruit young people on a trial basis for six months to carry out jobs out of the ordinary operations. In order to support competence development among all employees, a special Competence Fund was established in 2003 allocating a total of €200 million for training and development activities.

Description of initiative

Local municipalities are responsible for providing access for citizens under the age of 20 years to education, training and/or employment. They are also responsible for the basic social security funds for people without unemployment benefits or other means of financial support. The City has also established a more active role in relation to new policies on employment.

As an employer, the City needs to recruit more young people, especially in childcare jobs. Moreover, there is also a need to bridge the generation gap due to expected retirements in the future. The City is concerned that young people are not attracted by careers in the municipality. In this regard, there is a need for the City to become a more attractive employer for young workers. The Labour Market Board (Arbetsmarknadsstyrelsen, AMS) is responsible for supporting young people on entering the labour market through the assistance of their regional and local agencies.

A joint working group, comprising the City, the regional AMS and the regional council for the European Social Fund (ESF), discussed different actions to combat unemployment among young people. Unemployment among this group is an increasing economic problem both for the City as it is responsible for social support and the state as it is responsible for unemployment benefits.

To target this problem, a joint project was organised between the City and the AMS with financial support from the ESF council as well as the Competence Fund. As a result, 200 young people, between the ages of 20 and 24 years, who have been unemployed for more than three months were defined as a risk group. Many of the young people in this age group lacked proper training, had not finished their school education, were de-motivated and often had low self esteem. These young people were offered a place in a programme involving a six-month training period on the job followed by six months employment under the youth employment agreement. The long-term objective was that the second period, which included a more real job, would be motivating for these young trainees and would also make the practical training long enough so that the trainees involved in the operations would gain a satisfactory level of experience to help them make future vocational decisions. For both periods, salaries were paid from the Competence Fund. After receiving information from the labour market agencies, more than 100 young people signed up for the programme. In total, 85 trainees took part in the programme for both the practical training and the employment period.

To support the young participants in their integration into the job, supervisors in the various workplaces were assigned on a voluntary basis, after which they were linked to each participant. These mentors took part in basic training sessions for three days followed by an offer to take part in continued meetings between all supervisors. Throughout the year, the supervisors and the trainees received the support of social workers and councillors from the project administration linked to the Competence Fund. A joint steering committee with the organisers led the project. The project was supported by the trade unions on the condition that it was based on the youth employment agreement.

The first 90 participants in the scheme reported good experiences. On this basis, the decision was made to start up a second round of the initiative oriented towards somewhat younger people (aged 18–20 years) who were school drop-outs and out of work. Out of a total of 500 participants, 30 of them were recruited. This phase of the project is due to finish during 2007. For the second round of the scheme, earlier trained supervisors were used.

The project also aimed to establish a model for practice and supervision for use in future programmes of this kind. According to estimates, the total cost of the project amounted to about €2 million.


An evaluation of the first phase of the project revealed the following results:

  • 20% of participants dropped out of the project;
  • 55% of the remaining participants had jobs and 15% of them were in training;
  • 60% of the trainees are expected to take up work in the City administration;
  • 100 supervisors have been trained.

Of the 67 people who remained in the project, 60% of them were men and 40% were women. Of the 20 people who dropped out of the programme, 13 of them were women and seven were men. In this regard, it could be concluded that the project had some success in breaking gender-segregated occupations.

A majority of the trainees have a positive view of the project and how it was carried out. In total, 90% of the participants think that the project will enhance their opportunities in the labour market.

The Sports Administration, which runs the city’s public sport facilities, took on three trainees, all of whom are now employed by the administration. Although the training costs were covered by the administration’s budget, the administration chose trainees who were interested in their field of work. Through this arrangement, the administration could bridge the generation gap over a longer period of time by taking advantage of the experience and competence of their older employees.

In the course of the project, the following aspects were noticed:

  • training proved difficult among the participants with a lack of school education;
  • the supervisory role has proven important and was appreciated, but there have also been benefits for participants with a contact outside the workplace who was neither an employer nor an employer representative.
  • most of the participants have progressed well in the different roles, such as those in childcare and sports activities.

In recent months, the length of the employment period and the prospects of getting a real wage have been positive for many participants. However, some people have been disappointed on not getting a long-term employment contract – the main reason for these results was the lack of formal education held by participants in many professions.

Finally, it is important to note that the wage subsidies were a decisive factor in the decision of the different administrations and units to take part in the project.

Exemplary and contextual factors

The City of Stockholm is responsible as an employer and a public body for combining efforts to integrate the needs of unemployed young people with the needs of employers in relation to future recruitment and in bridging generation gaps among employees. Under normal circumstances, employers make an effort to become more attractive employers for key groups with specialised or highly skilled competencies. Overall, the method of combining lengthy employment practice with a coherent strategy of internal well-trained supervisors supporting the trainees led to a 55% increase in employment.

Per Tengblad, AB & ATK Arbetsliv, Stockholm

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