• Sweden edition
 
Presented by ALMEGA
Foreign workers: In demand but under threat
Fluency in a foreign language is just one of many assets immigrants bring to the Swedish workplace. File photo/Shutterstock

Foreign workers: In demand but under threat

Published: 13 May 2014 12:00 GMT+02:00

American game producer Ellen Williams moved to Sweden three years ago to take up a job with a company in Sweden’s blooming gaming sector and now works at King, the maker of global blockbuster Candy Crush.

The blend of non-Swedes and locals working together is key to the company’s success, she told The Local. 

“I think any company would benefit from the different perspectives that foreign workers would bring. Our games are for a global audience, so having a mix of viewpoints and ideas leads to more interesting and fun outcomes,” said Williams.

LINK: HELP KEEP LABOUR MIGRATION - FIND OUT HOW HERE

After “jumping through hoops” to get a visa to work previously in the UK, she said the whole process was a lot smoother in Sweden.

This was the result of a 2008 change to the law that gave employers the right to decide for themselves if they wanted to hire somebody from abroad because of labour shortages. Previously, officials at the Swedish labour market administration would decide whether a visa should be granted, on the basis of labour market tests.

Now, proposals by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO) to curb labour migration have caused concern among Swedish employers. LO wants employers to have to prove that Swedish or EU workers would not be able to do the job.

LO’s strong links to the Social Democrats mean its view could have a major effect if they win the next election.

Labour migration has certainly made Sweden’s workforce far more cosmopolitan: a recent report from employers’ organization Almega revealed that the employment rate for non-Swedes is at a record high, with 68% of those born outside the country now having a job in Sweden.

Between 2006 - 2012 foreigners accounted for 65 percent of the total increase of the number employed in Sweden during this period. Demand for workers in the knowledge intensive sectors such as IT, banking and engineering, has placed an onus on Swedish employers to go abroad and recruit the best.

“There is a perception often that foreign workers are out in a field somewhere picking berries. People don’t realise how much the economy has been boosted by Sweden being able to attract highly skilled foreign workers here,” Ulf Lindberg, head of Almega’s public affairs department, told The Local.

He added; “Sweden has become a rich country because of labour migration.”

LINK: WANT TO STOP THE CHANGES? MAKE A SELFIE HERE AND JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

Sweden’s economy recovered slowly in 2013, despite this the employment levels rose in an unexpectedly strong way in the services sector.

Workers in the knowledge intensive sector were responsible for over 60 per cent of the jobs created in the private service sector in 2013, 45,000 in total. Among these new employees, those born overseas play an important role

“The demand for more skilled labour has been on the rise for the last 20 years. We can estimate that as much as 75% of the employment growth in the private service sector in Sweden has come in the knowledge intensive industries,” Lena Hagman, chief economist for Almega, told The Local.

“But,” Hagman warned; “There is a shortage of skilled labour in these industries so Swedish companies need to look for labour abroad. There’s no way Sweden’s economy would be as strong as it is without labour migration.”

King (pictured below) is one of the Swedish companies to have benefited greatly from the input of foreign brainpower. In its Malmö headquarters the official working language of the office is English, in order to accommodate the multinational staff.

“It’s not the hard skills, per se, which foreigners bring to King as the local talent in Sweden is at a very high level of competence. More soft skills, a different way of approaching solutions to problems,” said Ellen Williams.

While King's Product Manager in Malmö, Henrik Sebring, said the company has a serious need for foreign brainpower - as the talent pool for the gaming industry is too thin in Sweden.

"It is incredibly important to us to hire foreign staff, as experienced workers from Sweden alone cannot sustain our planned growth. The gaming industry is still very small in Sweden compared to North America and the rest of Europe," Sebring told The Local.

He added that potential changes to labour migration rules would have certainly have a ripple effect on the rapid growth of the gaming giant.

"It would take a considerably longer time to staff up new teams and increase our studio organically. The experience we can bring in from other counties is also extremely valuable to us," said Sebring.

HAVE YOU MOVED TO SWEDEN TO WORK? TELL YOUR STORY!

Meanwhile in Stockholm technology specialists Tacton Systems employ a workforce of 130. A third of those come from abroad, or 16 different nationalities ranging from Japan to Afghanistan to be precise.

For a company like Tacton Systems, which has a major international influence, changes to the immigration rules could have a detrimental effect on business.

“The existing laws are already too cumbersome. For a mid-size company focused on exports, like us, a change in migration laws would have an impact. Put simply, having skilled foreign staff is a fantastic way to grow much faster,” Tacton Systems CEO Christer Wallberg told The Local.

Tacton services clients all over the world from its Stockholm HQ. Haruko Kato, who has been based in Sweden for over a decade, looks after its Japanese side of the business and feels very much at home in the capital.

“For companies to develop and plug into new territories they need people who know the market, and speak the local language. Sweden is a small country so there is a need to explore the global market. It’s also a very attractive country to live in as a foreigner, as the quality of life is very high,” she said.

For many companies, such as Tacton and King, there is a mutual exchange of languages. The foreign employee brings their ability to communicate in their mother tongue to the work place, with the company providing intensive Swedish lessons to help them adapt to a new environment.

As Tacton CEO Wallberg said; “We don’t bring staff over here just for six months, we want them to be here for 10 years or more.”

The need for foreign workers is intensified by changes to Sweden’s demographics, with an ageing population making the country more reliant on hiring immigrants to fill the void. Native Swedes, aged between 25-64 no longer contribute to an increase in employment growth according to figures released by Almega.

Instead, its immigrants which have accounted for 65 percent of the employment growth in Sweden between 2006 - 2012.

Despite potential changes to curb labour migration Sweden remains an appealing place for skilled immigrants, like American digital marketing specialist Matthew Moroni. He quit his job in the States to move to Gothenburg to be with his Swedish partner and is currently weighing up his work options.

“I checked out the job scene before I considered moving here and I saw there were opportunities. If you have the right skills and qualifications then there are good jobs out there even if you don’t speak Swedish,” he said.

WANT TO STOP THE CHANGES? HOW YOU CAN HELP

Labour migration looks set to be an election issue ahead of September’s vote. LO is currently lobbying the Social Democrats to alter existing legislation if they get into office.

Such alterations would have a negative effect on the Swedish economy and lead to an inevitable ‘brain drain’ said Almega’s Lindberg.

“Many companies are situated in Sweden because of these current laws, but the fear is they could leave just as easily. Sweden needs to compete with other countries for skilled foreign workers and to do that we have to be an attractive place to come to,” said Lindberg.

He concluded; “We have to have global recruitment and open borders.”

WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE? STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Almega

* Almega – employer and trade organisation for the Swedish service sector (information in English)
 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swede Stenson on track for Dubai defence
Photo: TT

Swede Stenson on track for Dubai defence

Swedish world number four Henrik Stenson is on course to successfully defend his title at the DP World Tour Championship, the red-hot Rafael Cabrera-Bello may still pose a threat after Saturday's third round. READ  

Stolen ancient gold rings returned by post
A Swedish postman. Photo: TT

Stolen ancient gold rings returned by post

A collection of gold rings which date back some 3,000 years mysteriously turned up at the offices of a Swedish newspaper on Friday after they had gone missing from a museum collection. READ  

Up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis: report
Photo: TT

Up to 300 Swedes fighting with Isis: report

As many as 300 Swedes could have joined the Islamic State insurgency, Sweden's intelligence chief said Saturday. READ  

Body of Irishman found in Stockholm
Stockholm's Old Town in the rain. Photo: TT

Body of Irishman found in Stockholm

The body of an Irishman who had been missing since November 10th was found in the harbour by Stockholm's Old Town on Thursday, it has emerged. READ  

Ibrahimovic returns as PSG claim top spot
Photo: TT

Ibrahimovic returns as PSG claim top spot

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his first start for two months as Ligue 1 Champions Paris Saint-Germain went top for the first time this season with a 3-2 win at mid-table Metz on Friday night READ  

Julian Assange
Ecuador 'guarantees' Assange asylum
Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012. Screen grab: SVT

Ecuador 'guarantees' Assange asylum

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Friday guaranteed political asylum by Ecuador for "as long as necessary," one day after he lost an appeal against a Swedish warrant for his arrest. READ  

Abba's Björn defends Sweden's Spotify
Swedish artist Laleh alongside Björn Ulvaeus. Photo: Björn Ulvaeus

Abba's Björn defends Sweden's Spotify

Björn Ulvaeus has joined the row over Spotify's streaming costs, saying the music industry had to evolve but admitting that songwriters are losing money. He spoke to The Local's blogger Natalia Brzezinski from his newly adopted home, New York. READ  

Dark weekend looms for southern Sweden
Stockholm City Hall under the cover of clouds. Photo: TT

Dark weekend looms for southern Sweden

Southern Sweden looks set to stay under a blanket of cloud until at least Tuesday, as the darkest November in decades continues. READ  

Gothenburg rabbi reacts to death threats
Rabbi Hillel Ḥayyim Lavery-Yisraëli. Photo: Private

Gothenburg rabbi reacts to death threats

Gothenburg's rabbi received death threats following an attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem earlier this week. Leading figures in the Jewish community have told The Local they fear that anti-Semitism is spreading across Sweden, with Malmö already a key target. READ  

Rush hour chaos after train signal failure
The signal failure is affecting the service between Södertälje and Stockholm. Photo: Thomas Eneborg/TT

Rush hour chaos after train signal failure

Passengers travelling to and from the Swedish capital were forced to make alternative travel arrangements on Friday morning after a signal failure ground the rail service between Södertälje and Stockholm to a standstill. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
What's on in Sweden: November 20th to 27th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish mulled wine
Lifestyle
How an Umeå museum is rewriting Swedish history
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Family life in Stockholm
Blog updates

21 November

Editor’s Blog, November 21st (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello from Stockholm, Our week started with reports another Russian plane had been spotted in Sweden’s airspace,..." READ »

 

21 November

Exclusive Interview with Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"Most of us will agree that actions speak louder than words. But when the two are..." READ »

 
 
 
Lifestyle
Five unique backpacker hostels in Stockholm
National
How to boost your career in Skåne, Sweden's south
National
Bones show off Sweden's history
National
What new word are Swedes voting on?
National
Why African Swedes are angry about Santa's helper
National
Pine, tar, and tinder: flavours from the north
Gallery
Selfies, solidarity and Hillary Clinton: Stefan Löfven on tour
Gallery
People-watching: November 19th
Society
Why are international professionals leaving Sweden?
Business & Money
Meet the Swedes who made suits for The Hunger Games
Technology
'I'm among the first Swedes with a microchip'
National
What is Sweden doing about bird flu?
Gallery
Property of the week: Eriksberg
National
Vecka45: Sweden's most innovative week
Gallery
In Pictures: The clubs and loves of Sweden's Sven-Göran Eriksson
Society
What's On in Sweden: November 13th to 20th
Gallery
People-watching: November 16th
National
Driving (expats) home for Christmas?
Lifestyle
Make your own Swedish pea soup
Politics
"Totally unacceptable": Defence Minister on Stockholm submarine
Society
The A-Ö guide to making life in Sweden easier
National
How a Swedish party inspired a masterpiece
National
Seen the new Ace of Base yet?
National
Meet the Irish woman thundering into Swedish rock
Gallery
In Pictures: Ace of Base through the years
Society
Ten things you should never say to a Swede
Gallery
People-watching: November 12th
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
Opinion: 'We have to talk about Sweden's Isis fighters'
Business & Money
Price hike for new mortgages in Sweden
National
Toy store catalogues 'too white' in Sweden
National
Pirate Bay co-founder released from prison
National
Southern Sweden had 201 days of summer
Gallery
Sweden's ten most powerful people
Gallery
Property of the week: Mariestad
National
Introducing... Healthcare in Stockholm
National
What you need to know about Stockholm hospital bug epidemic
Lifestyle
Young Serbian shouts for students in Sweden
Lifestyle
How to make your own chocolate kladdkaka
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

819
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
aa-europe.org/sweden
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists
Click here for the full job description