Migration Minister Tobias Billström announced the new rules at a press conference in Stockholm on Tuesday. Under the changes, companies looking for workers will be able to employ people from anywhere in the world if they cannot find somebody suitable in Sweden or the EES (the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland).
“People’s movement across national borders and their desire to improve their standard of living is something we want to make use of in Sweden,” Billström said.
“The proposal will give Swedish businesses opportunities to seek labour outside the EES,” he added, saying that Sweden’s aging population and growing need for labour made the changes necessary.
Employers wishing first to recruit from outside Sweden or the EES will first have to advertise the job through the Swedish Labour Market Board and EURES, the European Union’s jobs database. In addition, people with a specialism in an area in which Sweden is experiencing a shortage will qualify for a 3 month job seekers’ visa. State employment office AMS will decide which sectors are covered by this visa. Beyond this there would be no bar to recruiting outside the EU.
Areas in which there is a shortage on the labour market vary over time, Billström said, but gave the construction industry as an example of a sector that could benefit from the new rules in the current climate.
People moving to Sweden to take up a job would initially be granted a 24 month visa, instead of 18 months at present. It would then be possible to extend this by four years, and then extend it further if they are still in work.
“Nobody will have to leave Sweden if they still have a job,” said Billström.
Sweden’s largest blue-collar union group, LO, had argued that unions should be consulted every time a job is offered to a non-EES worker, and attacked the government for not involving them in the process. Billström said the criticism was politically motivated.
“This criticism was expected, given the close links between LO and the Social Democrats, but the criticism is misdirected,” he said.
“As long as an employer can show that there is a job that needs to be filled and can show that they meet the norms regarding wages and collective agreements, there’s no reason to give individual interest groups a veto.”
Swedish state employment service AMS will also be denied a veto over jobs offered to non-EES citizens.
As at present, people coming to Sweden on working visas would be allowed to bring their families. They will continue to be entitled to the full range of Swedish welfare benefits. Billström said that this had historically not led to “over-exploitation of the system.”
Another change being introduced will make it possible for people who have studied at Swedish universities to stay in the country and take up jobs here. At present they have to return to their home countries upon the expiry of their student visas and reapply to gain permission to work in Sweden.
Billström argued that Sweden needed to have attractive labour migration rules to attract the “best workers on the global market.” He said Sweden’s rules needed to be more generous than in many other countries, “as our climate and our language, which is only spoken by 9 million people, means our competitive situation is different.”
The proposal will now be put out for consultation. A spokesman for Tobias Billström said that the earliest that the proposal was likely to become law would be by the middle of next year.