Sweden approves new labour immigration law

Sweden's parliament has pushed through legislation that will make it easier for non-EU citizens to come to the country to work.

New rules set to come into force on December 15th stipulate that individual employers rather than the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) will decide whether there is a need to recruit foreign workers.

The terms of employment must be equal to or better than those set out in Swedish collective bargaining agreements or what passes for standard practice in a particular industry.

“The need for a workforce is central to migration politics, both in periods of strong and economic growth and in times of financial concern. It is possible for there to be a labour shortage and unemployment at the same time,” said Migration Minister Tobias Billström.

The law was passed by the four parties of the governing Alliance and the opposition Green Party.

But the Social Democrats, the Left Party and trade union confederation LO all expressed fears that the new law would lead to wage dumping, exploitation of vulnerable employees and a dilution of the right to asylum.

Social Democrat Göte Wahlström said he accepted the need for labour force immigration if Sweden was to safeguard the “general welfare” of an ageing population.

“But this requires a structure that does not impoverish, create social dumping or disorganization in an otherwise well-functioning labour market,” he said during Wednesday’s parliamentary debate.

Citizens from the EU, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland are to be given preference for open positions. The Swedish Migration Board is to be charged with ensuring that employers respect this basic principle.

Under the new rules, immigrants will also be able to receive an extended work permit for a maximum of four years, after which they can qualify for a permanent residence permit.

There will also be certain exceptions to the rule that work permit applications from non-EU citizens must be filed in a prospective immigrant’s home country.

For example, asylum seekers who have their applications rejected will be granted residence permits if they apply for a work permit within two weeks of the decision being reached.