Skilled workers set sights on Sweden

IT consultants dominate the ranks of people applying for work permits in Sweden under new legislation passed in December.

While providing greater expediency for skilled professionals the law has been criticized for not covering existing, often illegal, workers, Dagens Nyheter reports.

New labour immigration laws passed through parliament on December 15th made it easier for non-EU citizens to come to the country to work. The new rules allow individual employers rather than the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) to decide whether there is a need to recruit foreign workers.

New figures from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) show that people within the IT sector have been the most active in seeking work permits so far, with India the origin of over a quarter of all the applications.

Of the 762 applications for work permits since December 15th, 212 were made in India.

“Many are already employed in large companies and will work for the same employer in Sweden,” explained Annika Magnusson at the board to Dagens Nyheter.

The next significant group is from China, with 83 applications.

The pharmaceutical industry follows the IT and telecom industry as the most popular sector for applicants from India and China.

Previous rules also allowed for the import of highly skilled labour from non-EU countries but the new rules provide for greater expediency.

“The big difference is that the application process has been cut from 50 to 14 days,” Johan Batholdsson at India conglomerate Tata Consultancy Services told Dagens Nyheter.

The new legislation has however come in for criticism from some quarters for not covering the estimated thousands of illegal workers already employed in the country.

Furthermore, rejected asylum seekers do not have the right to apply and the new law requires all those in this category to return home and re-apply, even if they have been employed in Sweden for an extended period.

Of the 762 applications for work permits submitted to date, barely a third have been made from within Sweden. Most of these are for people employed in menial jobs or students.