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UNEMPLOYMENT

Public bodies to accept thousands of interns

To meet labour market policy goals the Swedish Alliance government is now demanding that public authorities accept thousands of interns.

The Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) alone is obliged to find work for 6,000 trainees under the government’s “Lyftet” (Lift) scheme, according to the Dagens Industri business daily.

“When I received the letter I was convinced that they had written it wrong, that there was one too many zeros,” said Elisabeth Bjar, HR director at the Swedish Tax Agency to the newspaper.

The government’s “Lyftet” scheme is aimed at occupying some 130,000 unemployed people, but by January municipalities and counties had only accepted 20 interns. The state will instead now take on the interns.

Swedish labour minister Sven Otto Littorin told the newspaper that he is well aware that finding places for 65,000 interns within the state apparatus was unrealistic.

“It is a high target, which I am conscious that we will not meet with regards to state authorities. But at the same time I think that we have to put pressure on state authorities to actually take part, in the same way as we have asked the local authorities to do so,” he told the TT news agency.

Littorin is also aware of the risk that trainees will not be given anything meaningful to do. But, he said, any activity is better than “just sitting at home and waiting for the benefits to arrive.”

“Even if the work tasks may not be 100 percent perfect, it is still better to have somewhere to go, to feel that there are others around, that you are not just left alone to wait for the money,” Littorin said.

Littorin rejected accusations from the ST union that the government is pushing the scheme to simply push down unemployment figures before the autumn election.

“It is of course not that at all, for the simple reason that these people are already unemployed. They remain registered as unemployed. So this is not an attempt to cook the books. However it increases the chance that they might return to work increases, and that is the whole point.”

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EUROPEAN UNION

Sweden heads for economic slowdown EU warns

The European Union has warned that Sweden's economy is facing a marked slowdown, with unemployment set to rise above seven percent as companies cut back on investment.

Sweden heads for economic slowdown EU warns
Jobseekers entering an office of the Swedish Public Employment Service back in 2016, when the economy was booming. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The August 2019 economic forecast from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs sees the rate of growth of Sweden's real GDP dropping to one percent next year.
 
This is slower than what is expected for all but four of the other 28 European Union members, and well below the brisk  four percent rate the country enjoyed back in 2015. 
 
“Sweden’s economy is clearly slowing down. Domestic demand and investment in particular are weak,” the report read, blaming the insipid domestic demand on a decline in investment in the housing market following years of strong growth. 
 
The slowing economy had also pushed Swedish manufacturers to hold back on investments in equipment, exacerbating the decline. 
 
The authors pointed out that planned government spending would do little to pick up the slack. 
 
“In spite of sizeable spending needs for schools, health care and welfare services linked to demographic developments, general government consumption is set to moderate in 2019 and 2020,” the report read. 
 
“Costs linked to migration should decrease, whereas new defence and health care expenses, priorities of the 2019 budget, are partially compensated by cutbacks on, among other items, labour market and environmental measures.” 
 
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While the report predicted that growth would start to pick up again in 2021, it warned that this recovery could be knocked off course by bad news internationally. 
 
“As the Swedish business cycle is closely aligned to that of its main trading partners, a deterioration of the external environment would weigh on the export sector,” it read. 
 
Real GDP in Germany and Belgium was also predicted to grow by just 1 percent in 2020, while Italy was expected to see a still more anaemic 0.04 percent growth rate. Every other EU country was predicted to grow faster, with Romania seeing the fastest growth at 3.6 percent. 
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