Sweden ‘should change jobless counting method’

Sweden should change the way that it calculates unemployment, to include more people currently in labour market schemes and early retirement programmes.

Stefan Attefall, the Christian Democrats’ labour market spokesman told The Local that he would like to see Sweden follow Europe’s lead:

“To take an example, there are just over 100,000 full time students in this country actively seeking employment. These would be included in the jobless statistics of other EU countries but not here.”

During the election campaign much has been made of the fact that Sweden does not measure its unemployment figures the same way as other countries in the EU. While open unemployment is reckoned by the outgoing government to be approximately 6% many outside observers, as well as the Alliance, are of the opinion that there are many more jobless hidden behind various labour market schemes and early retirement programmes.

The Alliance has not yet had a chance to sit down and iron out a common proposal, according to Attefall, but he is confident that the four parties can bring about significant change. When asked about the future of the state-run Swedish Employment Service, he says that new directives are needed to make it less bureaucratic.

“What we must do is free front-line staff from the bureaucracy that currently prevents them from doing what they are paid to do: find jobs for the unemployed.”

Attefall thinks that the introduction of new statistical measures would prevent the Employment Service from juggling its numbers. “In the early 2000s the government set itself the goal of bringing unemployment down to 4%. This was achieved largely by means of the Employment Service pushing figures from one column over to another.”

One way to alleviate this, according to Attefall, is to measure the number of actual hours worked. “This variable makes it possible to calculate the number of full time jobs in relation to the working population as a whole and provides the most realistic estimate of the actual number of people who are unemployed.”

Paul O’Mahoney