• 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
Updated: 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total problem in intelligence". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife
Police on the scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife

Updated: Police arrested a man in Copenhagen on the suspicion of killing his wife, whose body was found at the couple's home in southern Sweden during the weekend. READ  

Arlanda, Stockholm
Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Swedes bound for New York learned on Monday morning that their plane had been cancelled after it was hit by lightning during Sunday's thunderstorm. READ  

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

The County Administrative Board of Skåne has decided to confiscate the 35 cats of an 81-year-old man who was forbidden from having more than nine of the furry felines. READ  

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew
Photo: TT

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew

With Sunday's thunderstorm reported as the worst of the year so far, Sweden is bracing for round two on Monday as meteorologists predict more of the same. READ  

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Last year 1,600 people in Sweden took their own lives - and for Swedes aged 15 to 24, the numbers haven't been so high since 1989. READ  

Floods replace Swedish heatwave
The Viking Lines ferry pictured was ripped away from the dock as a result of the storm. Per Gustavsson / TT

Floods replace Swedish heatwave

The Swedish summer was washed away on Sunday as thunderstorms caused chaos in Stockholm, including torrents of water flooding down stairways at metro stations. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
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

730
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:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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
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:
http://psdmedia.se