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The transition from school to work is the main challenge to social inclusion of young people. Even though unemployment rates are decreasing among young Swedes, there are groups of young people who face major difficulties in getting established in the labour market.
Young immigrants, those with immigrant background, the disabled or those who have been in institutional care are over-represented among young people who have not completed secondary education. They are therefore at the greatest risk of encountering problems in getting established in the society and in the labour market.
Swedish upper secondary schools provide education free of charge to all pupils who have completed compulsory schooling. One of the main contemporary challenges is the increasing number of students who do not complete compulsory school, and are therefore not eligible for a national upper secondary school programme. The proportion rose from 14.4% in 2015 to 16.9% in 2016 and 17.5% in 2017. In 2020, the share went back to 14.4%.
Young people not eligible for a national upper secondary school programme are offered places on introductory programmes. Therefore almost every young person (about 98%) starts upper secondary education, although many drop out or take a break in their studies. Of the students who started upper secondary school in 2014 only 72% had obtained a high school diploma or a study certificate within three years. Within four years, the proportion is around 78%.
Developments during the past years have been marked by increasing differentiation within the educational system. Today there is a real socio-economic, ethnic and performance based segregation in schools, at both primary and secondary levels. Students who live in socially deprived areas have a worse starting point in their transition from school to work compared with students in more affluent areas, according to a study by the Swedish National Agency for Education in 2018 (Rapport 467:2018) .
Asylum seekers and newly arrived
In 2015, Sweden was the largest recipient of asylum seekers per capita in the EU – 16,5 per 1 000 inhabitants. According to the Swedish Migration Board’s statistics, 40% of the 162 877 asylum seekers who arrived in Sweden in 2015 were children and young people of school age.
Up to the age of 18, young asylum seekers have the right to education, either in pre-school, compulsory school or an introductory programme in upper secondary school. The number of unaccompanied minors rose sharply from 7 000 in 2014 to 35 369 in 2015, but has since then dropped to 500 in 2020.
The Swedish Government has initiated a number of comprehensive programmes and actions, where the target group consists of young people in a more vulnerable position, such as NEET, young people at risk for violence and radicalisation, young people with a migrant or ethnic minority background, young LBGTI-persons, young disabled and newly arrived young people.