Located some 200 km NW of Stockholm, Borlänge is a former industrial city having seen stagnant population numbers for half a century. Although the population has increased somewhat since 1970 and now exceeds 50,000, most of the modest expansion is due to a rather recent influx of refugee migrants where the Somali community is the biggest one with 3,200 people, whereof 2,300 are first generation, i.e. born in Somalia. Residents originating in the Middle East comprise a similar share of the population and in total about 13.5 percent (7,000) are born outside of Europe.
While the number of workers in its traditional industries steel and paper production has decreased, Borlänge has seen a growth in the IT sector, in retail and in education, and has benefitted from relocation of State activities (such as the Swedish Transport Administration), but it faces challenges to integrate immigrants and to provide the new generation with work opportunities. One of Borlänge’s poor neighbourhoods are currently on the national Police list of about 60 vulnerable urban districts in Sweden and the municipality has launched place-based restructuring efforts to try to affect current segregation dynamics in relation to disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
A Swedish municipality has a great deal of institutional autonomy and practically runs all basic functions of the welfare state, except for health care (compulsory child care and school education, social services, elderly care) and has a planning monopoly when it comes to housing and other construction. Although optional, Borlänge like most other Swedish municipalities has its own rental housing company, which by law is operating on normal market conditions (not social housing). About 23 percent of all residents are public renters. In a wider European comparison, Borlänge municipality has a high institutional capacity to launch measures to counteract inequality and to support intergenerational upward social mobility.