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Job service appointment prompts cronyism claims

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20:10 CEST+02:00
The government has announced that the new man responsible for getting Sweden's unemployed back to work is Bo Bylund, the former head of Sweden's railway network.

Bylund will take over the running of the Swedish National Labour Board from the beginning of August.

But the decision brought criticism from the opposition parties, not least from the Moderate Party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt, who described the appointment as "provocative".

"I see him as a Social Democrat election worker," he said. "You can't get a more Social Democratic background than this."

Bylund's Social Democratic credentials include having been an association secretary in the Metall Union and state secretary to Mona Sahlin when she was the minister for employment. His partner is the minister for social affairs, Berit Andnor.

The rate of unemployment in Sweden has already lodged itself at the top of the 2006 election agenda, and the opposition parties expressed their concern that the placement of a "party sympathiser" in such an influential position could lead to the true figures' being concealed.

In a press release the Liberal Party's labour market spokesman, Carl B Hamilton, said that the real rate of unemployment would remain at around 15%-20% "and that the statistical goal of 4%-5% would maybe be reached on election day".

It was against such a backdrop that Hans Karlsson, the Minister for Employment, was at pains to list Bylund's qualifications for the job.

"Bo Bylund has solid leadership skills with experience from large organisations. He has a good knowledge of the issues of labour market politics," he said.

"From the start he will be able to develop the organisation, strengthen corporate contacts and match up vacancies with job seekers - at the same time as pushing through the policies to drive down unemployment."

Bylund himself told Swedish Radio that his role was simply to make the National Labour Board better.

"As I understand it, the task is to give a better service to job seekers and a better service to the business community and other employers."

He rejected suggestions that his party affiliation would affect his ability to do the job.

"What's important is that I have a burning desire to fight unemployment," he said.

"I don't believe my political background has any relevance."

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, SR

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