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Mirjam – Facilitating entry into the labour market for newly arrived refugee women within the labour introduction assignment

The project Mirjam


Mirjam is an ESF project run by the Swedish National Employment Service that includes 22 municipalities in Östergötland and Sörmland. A project guiding newly arrived women to the labour market, it aims to increase the employment rate for participants after the introduction phase. The project’s goal is to find methods and pathways for the target group that shorten the lead time from arrival to a job.


Mirjam is intended only for newly arrived women with a minimal educational background. The reason is that this group gets out into the workforce to a lesser extent than other groups. In Sweden today, more than every fifth foreign-born woman of working age remains outside the workforce. This figure can be compared to foreign-born men and to native-born women and men, where barely one in ten adults remains outside the workforce.


“In the new arrivals group there are, of course, big differences in things like educational background, but a common thread is that it’s harder for women than men to gain a foothold in the labour market. This imbalance is not just a large one – it’s also increasing. That’s why we want to create a project that focuses on gender equality. It would be positive for the labour market if more women found work. And it would contribute to a better balance of power and have many positive effects for the individual woman,” says Birgitta Tegidius, initiator of the project.

Coaching groups

By tailoring coaching initiatives for women early on in the introduction phase, Mirjam attempts to rectify this imbalance. The project brings together women in different coaching groups at six different locations in Östergötland and Sörmland. The idea is to create small groups, about 15 women in each. Three components make up the coaching groups: guidance, inspiration and study visits. Guidance provides information and discussions about the Swedish labour market, study opportunities, financial support for studies, rights in Swedish society and work/life balance. The coaching activities, which run for ten weeks, aim to increase the visibility of the hidden skills these women possess. Their skills are ones that need to be leveraged and translated into working life in Sweden. In parallel with the coaching groups, the women also study Swedish.

Study visits

Mirjam actively promotes study visits as part of its coaching groups, where participants get to visit the training providers and a variety of workplaces. Study visits are an important tool that gives the participants insight into the nuts and bolts of a profession, along with clearer goals.


“The women themselves have highlighted the study visits as one of the better parts of the project. They felt that it was instructive to receive information about different professions. They say that it’s good to understand a profession and see a workplace. It’s easier to know whether you want to work in a particular field if you can see how things work in reality,” says project manager Maria Edberg.

Female role models become mentors

Within the project framework, Mirjam wishes to appeal to female mentors from professional life, associations and organisations to help the participants create a network.


“Mentoring as a means of personal development has a long history. In recent years, mentoring has become more popular – and more successful – as a professional, structured approach. The female mentors will act as facilitators who help show them the way to the job market and to further studies. It’s also about coming into contact with a female professional who can serve as a role model,” says Tegidius.

A focus on equality

The project has a gender equality coordinator who specifically focuses on horizontal policies. Mirjam wishes to broaden the perception of what kinds of jobs are possible and break the gender-stereotyped patterns dictating which jobs women and men can choose. The project will create the foundations for, and provide participants with, increased power over their lives, bringing about positive effects on their finances, employment and education. In the longer term, the project intends to provide the women in the labour introduction assignment with access to quality initiatives and conditions for increased self-sufficiency that are on an equal footing with men.


At present, 74 women have taken part in the project, divided into six groups at three locations: Linköping, Norrköping and Motala. The project will run for three years, during which it expects to have slightly more than 500 participants. Among those who have participated in the project, 86% responded that they know what jobs they would like to have after participating in Mirjam.

Bild i högerkolumnStudyvisit in the project.


Programme area:

2.3 Improve transition to labour market


Eastern Central Sweden

Project owner:

Swedish Public Employment Service