• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
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

The Local · 13 May 2014, 12:00

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
Fans threatening boycott of Johnny Depp's Stockholm gig
Johnny Depp and the Hollywood Vampires performing at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Photo: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

But others were queuing outside on Monday morning.

Good news: The Swedish summer has returned
It could be time for that first swim of the year in Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Time to put away those waterproofs and bring out the bathing suits once more.

Zlatan's sore calf forces him to sit out Sweden's friendly
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Sweden team's training camp. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT

So does that mean Slovenia will beat Sweden on Monday?

'Sweden would not be able to defend Gotland'
File photo of a military exercise. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

Sweden would not be able to make a stand if it came to an invasion of the Baltic Sea island by foreign forces, one expert has said.

My Swedish Career
'Sweden is the ideal place for my business'
Emilie Terstegge. Photo: Private

Why Sweden's fitness craze and generous family benefits helped this Dutch entrepreneur launch her startup for mums.

Police shoot knife man in central Stockholm
Police technicians spent the rest of Saturday night combing the square for clues. Photo: TT

A knife-wielding man was shot by police officers in Stockholm’s Sergel Square after he attacked officers.

Zlatan 'is not going to Manchester United', says agent
Ibrahimovic is pondering his next move. Photo: TT

According to Mino Raiola, the agent of Swedish superstar footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his client will not be heading to Old Trafford to link up with Jose Mourinho, Manchester United's new manager.

More flight delays hit Swedish airport
For some flights, the problems have led to up to two hours of delays. Photo: TT

Travellers at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport were beset again with delays on Saturday afternoon after technical problems with flightplan management software.

Video
The top reactions to Swedish high heels handyman video
Andersson was in agony after a day of laying floors in high heels. Photo: Emil Andersson

What did The Local's readers think about this viral clip challenging sexist beauty ideals?

Transport authorities call for probe into tech glitch
SAS aircraft grounded at Arlanda airport last week. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

But officials say it was not sabotage that caused last week's network failure, which knocked out large parts of Swedish air traffic.

Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Gallery
People-watching: May 27th-29th
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Gallery
The best, cutest and funniest snaps from Prince Oscar's christening
Travel
Is this town the best place in Sweden?
Blog updates

27 May

Editor’s blog, May 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, Would you spend a day doing manual labour in high heels? That’s what Swedish…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Gallery
People-watching: May 25th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Society
WATCH: Why Swedish handyman wore pink high heels for feminism
Sport
LIST: Top-ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
3,348
jobs available
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