Government jobs plan “too little, too late”

The government's attempt to seize the initiative on unemployment with massive package of measures designed to get 55,000 people off the dole has met a chorus of indifference from unions, business leaders and opposition parties.

Finance minister Per Nuder described to parliament on Thursday how 8 billion kronor a year for the next two years would be targeted at pushing the long term unemployed, graduates and young people back into the job market.

The largest portion of the money will be used to create 20,000 extra public sector jobs.

“Sweden’s problem is not that the public sector is too small and that the private sector is too big. It’s quite the contrary,” said Anders Narvingar, the managing director of Teknikföretagen, an organisation which represents 3,200 of Sweden’s technology companies.

Nevertheless, Nuder assured parliament that the new jobs were necessary and worthwhile.

“These ‘plus jobs’ are real jobs with agreed salaries, designed to bring about a quality improvement in local, regional and national authorities,” said Nuder.

Such jobs include home help for the elderly, he said.

In addition, some 10,000 temporary education jobs will be created in the care sector.

“Many people working health and social care lack adequate training for the jobs they do. We want to raise the quality and competence at the same time as pushing back unemployment,” explained the finance minister.

Nuder said that the government will ‘give a helping hand’ to small businesses to encourage them to take on 4,000 graduates who have been unemployed for more than 6 months.

There will also be a considerable investment in on-the-job training, with 13,000 work experience places expected to be created.

But critics were unimpressed.

Anna Ekström, the chairman of the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations, said the measures for unemployed graduates were “like a bottle of ketchup”:

“First nothing comes, then nothing, then nothing. Now suddenly everything comes at once.”

Meanwhile, the Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees welcomed the new jobs but said that the government had been “far too passive” in the fight against unemployment.

“We have lost out in terms of both production and wasted labour because these measures were not put in place earlier,” said Sten Nordh, the confederation’s chairman.

The chief economist at the trade union organisation LO told Svenska Dagbladet that the government’s inaction on joblessness had played into the hands of the opposition.

“It has created a lack of faith in social democracy which they are now trying to repair,” said Dan Andersson.

Speaking to Dagens Industri, a number of Sweden’s business leaders made clear their united view that the two-year flow of 16 billion kronor was heading in the wrong direction.

“The tax burden is too high in Sweden and must be reduced,” said Carl-Henric Svanberg, the boss of Ericsson.

“It’s also important to create a tax situation so that foreigners can come here and work on good terms.”

Gunvor Engström, head of the Federation of Private Enterprise, said that the obvious way to get people back to work is to make it “simpler and cheaper to start and develop companies”.

“We want lower payroll tax, the abolition of co-funded sick pay and the possibility of a professional service sector through targeted tax reductions,” she said.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri