Sweden and Multiculturalism at Work: from Jantelagen to Ethnical Discrimination

Topics: Unemployment, Sweden, Discrimination Pages: 12 (3865 words) Published: October 5, 2012
a.a. 2011/2012

Diversity Management – Diversity, Gender and Equality in Organisations KAN-CBL_DIMA
Final Paper

Sweden and multiculturalism at work: from Jantelagen to ethnical discrimination

Giulio Lorenzini


Jantelagen and its roots3
Immigration and unemployment from the 1950s to nowadays5 a. The economic argument7
b. Evidence and effects of discrimination8
Jantelagen and discrimination10


Sweden, similarly to the other Scandinavian countries, stands as one of the most egalitarian and democratic countries in the world in terms of social equality, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (2007), and devotes more than 30 percent of its GDP on social expenditure. This clearly has a positive impact on the integration of disadvantaged people from ethnical minorities. In terms of integration policies themselves, the country has been investing considerable funds since 1968 and set its three integration goals (equality, freedom of choice and partnership) just a few years later. It then more and more opened the welfare system to newly arrived immigrants and set forth other important principles for integration: recognition of individual diversity, equal opportunities and mutual tolerance. However, in the same period when integration policies were born, statistical research proves that immigrant workers started facing several obstacles in the job market. The unemployment rate for immigrants since the 1970s began to suffer from a gap with respect to the one of native Swedes and foreign citizens working in Sweden, as well as naturalized Swedes, encountered problems also in terms of promotion opportunities and wage. This situation evolved in the same direction until nowadays and opens several questions. The following research attempts to investigate on the Swedish cultural background at the basis of the welfare system and eventually connected to ethnical discrimination at work. Secondly, it presents the factors that researchers attribute to the job obstacles that immigrants have been facing over the last four decades. Some studies prove ethnic discrimination has played a large role in this phenomenon, mostly causing unemployment but also preventing foreign workers from obtaining promotion and training as well as an adequate salary. This finally suggests to reconsider the cultural framework examined before and briefly examine the public and private actors that have fostering such discriminatory attitudes.

Jantelagen and its roots

If in the late 19th century immigration used to be faced by Swedes mostly as in the other European countries, from an imperialistic and conservative perspective, the next century inaugurated in Scandinavia a new cultural and political system encouraging tolerance and respect for the Other, evidently with some implications for the attitudes towards foreigners and the integration policies. This period indeed corresponds to the end of the Swedish political dominance over Scandinavia, with the acquisition of independence by Norway in 1905, and to the early establishment of a welfare system alongside with an industrialization strategy. Such political changes were accompanied by the birth of the modern Scandinavian values, all over the Nordic countries, formalized by Aksel Sandemose in his 1933 publication A refugee crosses his tracks. He explains Jantelagen (in English called “Jante Law”), an unwritten social code, and outlines its ten essential rules with an imperative style. 1. Do not think you are anything special.

2. Do not think you are as good as us.
3. Do not think you are smarter than us.
4. Do not convince yourself that you are better than us.
5. Do not think you know more than us.
6. Do not think you are more important than us.
7. Do not think you are good at anything.
8. Do not laugh at us.
9. Do not...

References: F. Bengtsson, “Jantelagen till diskriminering”, Motion till riksdagen, A413, 2010;
P. Bevelander, “The employment status of immigrant women; the case of Sweden”, IMR, 39(1), 2005;
M. A. Eger, “Even in Sweden: the effect of immigration on support for welfare state spending”, European Sociological Review, 2009;
Sofie Fredlund-Blomst, “Jantelagen and multiculturalism. A dynamic dual”, Berkeley Undergraduate Journal, 23(1), 2010;
B. Larsen, G. Waisman, “Do attitudes towards immigrants matter?”, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Economics (working paper), 2007;
[ 2 ]. Daun, 1996.
[ 3 ]. Knocke, 1993
[ 4 ]
[ 5 ]. Bevelander, 1995.
[ 6 ]. Bevelander, 1999.
[ 7 ]. Knocke, 1986; Schierup and Paulson, 1994
[ 8 ]
[ 9 ]. Knocke and Hertzberg, 2001.
[ 10 ]. Schierup and Paulson, 1994.
[ 11 ]. Ericsson, Molina, Ristilammi, 2000.
[ 13 ]. Goldberg et al., 1996; Bovenkerk et al., 1995.
[ 14 ]. Swank and Betz, 2003.
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