Minister pushes for economic migration reforms

The government is preparing legislation that would enable Swedish employers to recruit workers from anywhere in the world.

The proposed legislation would also permit qualified foreign nationals to obtain a temporary visa in order to seek employment in areas where Sweden has a shortage of workers, such as care for the elderly.

Speaking at a seminar in Malmö, Migration Minister Tobias Billström presented the main points of his proposal.

“This is by far the most important issue that needs to be implemented,” he said, according to newspaper Sydsvenskan.

“This will provide an opportunity for people to come here by means other than asylum immigration. A lot of people today are standing in the wrong queue,” he added.

Under the current system, work visas can only be issued on the recommendation of County Labour Boards, which base their decisions on an analysis of the prevailing labour market climate. These boards will disappear if the new law comes into force, with Billström arguing that individual companies are better placed to judge their own employment needs than government agencies.

“Nor is there any reason to give trade unions right of veto,” he said.

Foreign employees coming to Sweden are to be covered by the same collective agreements and employment protections as their Swedish counterparts.

Billström dismissed the introduction of a points system, such as exists in Canada, as too bureaucratic.

“We want to take full and immediate advantage of immigration,” he said.

It is however uncertain whether Billström has the support he need to push the legislation through parliament.

Billström’s proposal is based on the results of a report presented last October by a parliamentary committee on labour market immigration.

The Social Democrats and trade union confederation LO were joined by some of the minister’s Alliance colleagues in favoring a more restrictive system involving the Labour Market Board.

The minister aims to circulate his report for formal consultation in the near future. If accepted, he hopes for the new law to be implemented in mid-2008.