2,600 government jobs to leave Stockholm

There’s a shuffle going on in the state-owned utilities to make up for holes left by a shrinking defence department. Much to the consternation of its Stockholm employees, the government has announced that several agencies will be relocated from the capital city to smaller, rural towns.

More than 2,600 jobs are affected. Among the proposals is a move for 40 employees at the Swedish National Electrical Safety Board to Kristinehamn, in the southwest of Sweden.

The agency’s director fears the worst.

“I’m afraid that this move will put electrical safety in danger,” said Gunnel Färm. She believes that the move to the country’s southwest will force closures of other offices in the far north and far south.

Nearly 200 jobs are moving up north to Arvidsjaur and more than a thousand are heading to Östersund, while another thousand go south to Karlstad and Gotland. Most of those jobs are with the Swedish National Labour Market Administration and the national Social Insurance Office, but the redistribution will affect 19 agencies in total.

Jan Bergqvist, who sits on the committee behind the proposals, admitted that such larg-scale shifts will be costly in the beginning but said he believes the changes will be worth it in the end.

“There’s evidence that the business expenses will be lower in the long run,” he said.

State employees in Stockholm are critical of the proposal. The head of the State Institute for Communications Analysis, Kjell Dahlström, sees the move as equivalent to closure.

Inger Liliequist at the National Heritage Board said: “If we’re forced to move it will be a long-term loss for our agency.” And the general director of the Consumer Agency, Karin Lindell, doubts her employees will be willing to move.

Politically, the Moderate party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt agreed with Lindell.

“For some it feels like an upheaval to rip up roots and move to other parts of the country. It seems so easy to treat people like bricks,” he said, and warned that there may be a “brain-drain” where competent people do not make the move to the rural areas.

He suggested instead that the government should make it easier for small companies to establish themselves in rural areas, and that large state agencies should stay put.

A final proposal from the committee will be presented on March 1st.