SamhällsomvandlingenNorra Sverige

The internationalization of northern Sweden

Expats and Friends is the organization for newcomers in Skellefteå. In the picture are three of the members, Cristina Lindberg Ghimpu, Toby Cowern, and Rehana Lothian.
Expats and Friends is the organization for newcomers in Skellefteå. In the picture are three of the members, Cristina Lindberg Ghimpu, Toby Cowern, and Rehana Lothian.

The internationalization of society has been identified as a key factor to encourage migration to northern Sweden. Here are the main issues that municipalities need to work on - and how far they have come.

Norra Sverige 18 september 2023 11:45

This involves, among other things, how open companies are to hiring people who do not speak Swedish and how they have adapted the workplace and operations towards recruitment from abroad, as well as how municipalities work with community information in different languages, with integration issues, and with English-language education in elementary and high schools.

Skellefteå is becoming an increasingly international society.

Of the municipalities in the north, Kiruna and Luleå have the highest proportion of foreign-born workers today. All municipalities show a net migration gain from abroad, but Skellefteå is in a league of its own due to the Northvolt factory construction (see fact box).

– Skellefteå has obviously progressed the most in this area, as they are well advanced in the development process. It is impressive to see how the city is working on different fronts and how quickly society has changed and adapted. No one can avoid seeing what is happening," says Jonas Lundström, head of business and community development for the Västerbotten region, who we spoke to assess how far northern Sweden has come in its development.

Jonas Lundström wants to see the work on creating a more international northern Sweden continue.
Norran produces news in English. In the picture is the new English editor, Paul Connolly, and the editor-in-chief Malin Christoffersson."

Internationalization is one of four sectors we highlight.

He mentions Skellefteå municipality's work with education and schools. But also the newspaper Norran's decision to focus on news in English, which started in February when the newspaper hired Paul Connolly, a former national newspaper journalist from the UK, to run its English section.

– It's cool to see that evolve. Newcomers' need to know what is going on in their area is so great that the media is keen to be accessible in languages other than Swedish.

Expats and Friends is the organization for newcomers in Skellefteå. In the picture are three of the members, Cristina Lindberg Ghimpu, Toby Cowern, and Rehana Lothian.

Lundström also highlights the non-profit organization Expats and Friends, which helps with everything from integration issues to social events, creating meeting places of various kinds, and trying to help newcomers integrate into Skellefteå society.

–They are doing valuable work. All cities up here would benefit from having a newcomer organization like Expats and Friends. I really hope other cities understand the value of it and investigate what opportunities exist, says Lundström.

Thousands of guest workers from all corners of the world will come to Boden when the steel mill is to be built

Of the other cities, Boden is next on the list as H2 Green Steel's steel mill construction gets underway. The company has recruited expertise from many parts of the world, including South Africa and India. Education in English is available in both primary and secondary schools, something which Luleå has also started providing.

– Boden is really taking off. There will be a big difference in the city in just six months, when 2,000 construction workers will be on site and all hotel rooms will be fully booked. Luleå, Piteå, and Malmfälten are not yet affected in the same way. In general, I think companies are happy to embrace internationalization. Especially in Malmfälten, where the mining industry is very important and many people already use English on a daily basis.

In the Malmfälten mining industry, the English language is already widespread, notes Jonas Lundström.

–The business community in northern Sweden is already active in the international market, including some smaller companies. This was evident during the pandemic, when companies up here fared better than those in southern Sweden, says Lundström, mentioning the military test site at Vidsel and car testing operations, among others.

He believes that the municipalities are also on board.

– There is still a lot  of work to be done, but nobody has put their foot on the brake yet. It is important to continue working to make northern Sweden more international.

Inflyttning från utlandet

This is how many foreign-born people are registered in each municipality and what percentage of the population they make up. The statistics are for 2022.

Boden: 2905 / 10.4 percent.

Gällivare: 1841 / 10.6 percent.

Kiruna: 3036 / 13.5 percent.

Luleå: 9782 / 12.3 percent.

Piteå: 3021 / 7.1 percent.

Skellefteå: 7979 / 10.7 percent.

Net migration from abroad, second quarter of 2023:

Boden: +87.

Gällivare: +23.

Kiruna: +36.

Luleå: +26.

Piteå: +8.

Skellefteå: +269.

Source: SCB (Statistics Sweden).

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