Surprise dip in Sweden’s unemployment rate

Unemployment in Sweden shrunk unexpectedly in October, dropping to 8.1 percent of the workforce, according to new statistics. Nevertheless, one in four Swedes under age 25 remain out of work.

According to new figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB), the unemployment rate in Sweden increased by 2.4 percent from October 2008.

Analysts had expected unemployment to rise to 8.4 percent in October, up from the 8.3 percent reported by the statistics agency for September.

Swedish labour minister Sven Otto Littorin welcomed news of the improved jobless rate.

“Somewhat better than we had expected,” he told the TT news agency.

Nevertheless, he remained concerned about high levels of planned layoffs among Swedish employers, even if redundancy notices have dropped considerably in the last year.

“Of course it’s good that figures are pointing in the right direction, but we can still probably expect unemployment to climb,” he said.

Overall, 395,000 Swedes were out of work in October, an increase of 115,000 from last year.

At the same time, the number of people employed rose to 4,458,000 people in October, or 63.8 percent of the population, the lowest employment rate of 2009. October’s figure is a result not only of lower employment, but also an increase in Sweden’s population, according to SCB.

Last October, there were 4,593,000 people employed in Sweden, which corresponded to 66.5 percent of the population.

In addition, the number of long term unemployed, defined as people who have been out of work for at least 26 consecutive weeks, has nearly doubled from 72,000 last year to 130,000, or one third of Sweden’s unemployed.

Unemployment among Sweden’s young people is also on the rise, with the number of 15- to 24-year-olds out of work jumping by 40,000 to 148,000 over the last year.

The figure means that in the youngest age group more than one in four, 25.7 percent, of people are out of work, an increase of 7.2 percent from October 2008.

Approximately 41 percent of those counted among Sweden’s jobless young people are full-time students, however.

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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.”