Labour market storm subsiding: job agency

The worst appears to be over for the Swedish labour market, according to the country’s employment agency, which projects that unemployment will stop rising in the second half of 2010.

In a newly released forecast, Sweden’s National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) predicts that unemployment will peak at 9.4 percent next year before dropping to 9.1 percent in 2011.

“There is much to indicate that the economic climate is headed for an improvement from last year’s sharp downturn,” agency head Angeles Bermudez Svankvist said in a statement.

The employment agency’s latest labour market forecast is substantially more optimistic than the one released last spring, including downward revisions in how far employment is expected to drop in 2010.

Lead forecaster Tord Strannefors points to clear signs that the global economic situation is headed toward a recovery as well as increased optimism among employers.

“Companies we’ve interviewed have a very positive view of the future. But they’re coming from very low levels,” Strannefors told the TT news agency.

Improvements in the Swedish labour market, however, aren’t expected to reach every region of the country.

Counties with a large percentage of manufacturing jobs and which have already suffered from depressed economic conditions are still expected to have a hard time in the future, according to the employment agency.

Currently, Gävleborg County in eastern Sweden has the country’s highest jobless rate.

“That’s been made worse by Ericsson’s closure. That wasn’t something we included in this forecast,” said Strannefors.

Employment is expected to shrink by 108,000 people in 2009 and 55,000 people in 2010, according to Arbetsförmedlingen.

In 2011, the agency expects a marginal upswing in employment of 10,000 jobs. The modest size of the increase is a byproduct of the fact that many companies have surplus capacity at present and can likely increase production without needing to hire more workers.

The forecast is based in part on interviews with approximately 12,500 private sector employers.

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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.”