Women hit as unemployment fund charges soar

The monthly charges for Sweden's a-kassa unemployment funds are to increase sharply - and women will be hardest hit, according to the government's own legislative proposal.

For certain funds, the rise will take the monthly payments over the planned ceiling of 300 kronor. From the beginning of next year, the charges for the majority of Swedish funds will be raised by 200 to 300 kronor per month. That will make the charge for most funds between 300 and 400 kronor a month, compared to today’s level of around 100 kronor.

Worst affected will be the low-paid, and those on sick leave and parental leave – all groups where women dominate.

The government acknowledged this – if in rather veiled terms – in its legislative proposal which has been put before the Council on Legislation.

“The proposal on increased funding charges could could have consequences which are not completely neutral from an equality standpoint,” it stated.

But another group dominated by women will also be badly affected.

“Part time employees will be at a disadvantage,” said Peter Schönefeld, head of the Federation of Unemployment Insurance Funds (SO).

They will have to pay the full charge for their fund, despite only working part time – unlike those who are entirely unemployed and who do not pay any charge at all.

According to SO’s interpretation of the proposal, the promise that no fund member should face a raise of more than 300 kronor a month has fallen by the wayside. The funds for musicians, theatre workers and fishery workers have increased their charges by up to 400 kronor a month.

This, the government explains, is possible if higher administration costs are incurred by the fund.

“This is the equivalent of removing the equalisation system,” said Schönefeld, referring to the principle that the fund charges should be broadly comparable.