New figures show slowdown in Sweden’s rising unemployment

The pace of layoff announcements has leveled off, signaling a clear break with the country’s recent trend of rapidly increasing joblessness, according to the National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen).

At the end of August, 261,000 people – or 5.4 percent of the workforce – were registered as unemployed with the agency.

While the figure represents an increase of 113,000 people, 2.4 percent of the workforce, since August 2008, other figures show that there were only 1,000 more layoff announcements in August 2009 than during the same month a year ago.

And the August total of 5,000 redundancy notices is a significant drop from the monthly tallies of nearly 20,000 announcements which were common during some months last autumn.

“We’re seeing a clear improvement now, even if the number of layoff announcements in August increased,” said the employment agency’s deputy head Lena Liljebäck, to the TT news agency.

“There are still layoffs in manufacturing, but at a much slower pace than previously.”

Unemployment increased across all age groups. Among workers ages 18 to 24-years old, there was a total of 59,000 registered as unemployed in August, an increase of 27,000 from a year ago.

“Increasing youth unemployment is a real disappointment,” said Liljebäck.

Sweden’s rising unemployment led to a surge in people returning to school to gain additional credentials and qualifications.

“There are twice as many this year compared to last year who are leaving the Arbetsförmedlingen in order to begin their studies. Getting more education always makes it easier to get a job,” said Liljebäck.

And while the recent tide of redundancies appears to be receding somewhat, concerns about the future remain.

“We’re going to see a number of very difficult years in the labour market,” said Liljebäck.

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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”