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Migrant workers on the rise in Sweden

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12:47 CET+01:00
The number of people coming to Sweden to work is rising at the same time as the number of refugees coming to the country is falling, according to new figures from Statistics Sweden (Statistiska Centralbyrån, SCB).

The figures show that immigrants coming to Sweden to work has doubled since 2004, to 8,667 in 2010.

This includes those that have become registrered residents in Sweden and have stayed in Sweden for at least a year.

The trend is even more visible looking at the numbers from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket).

Since the new law came into effect, the agency has granted about 40,000 work permits to non-EU residents, although these figures only show how many permits were granted, not how many immigrants actually arrived in Sweden.

According to former minister for migration, Social Democrat Jan O. Karlsson, immmigration policy in Sweden was long goverened by the country's wish to feel benevolent.

”Only those we pitied were allowed in. It is very much a colonial way of thinking. New and modern immigration policy builds more on a global and reciprocal dependence,” he told daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

Karlsson is referring to changes to the law on labour migration from 2008, which could be argued to be one of the most generous policies when it comes to granting work permits to residents from outside the EU.

The change to the law meant that a the Swedish National Employment Office (Arbetsförmedlingen) no longer needed to prove there was a need on the Swedish labour force before a non-EU worker could be recruited for a position in Sweden.

Following the change, individual employers are granted the power to determine their staffing needs and meaning that an offer of employment from a Swedish employer can be enough for a non-EU worker to be granted a Swedish work permit.

The permits are limited to time, but can become permanent after four years.

One of the staunchest opposers to the change, the chair of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO), Wanja Lundby Wedin, thinks that the need for workers should be still be determined by the employment agency before non-EU residents are recruited.

”Unemployment within the EU is enormous. The employers' motives in bringing people in from countries outside of the EU, to clean or to work in restaurants, is to get a labour force who will agree to work under terrible condidtions,” she told DN.

However, current minister for migration, Tobias Billström, points out that many areas have had problems with illegal workers for a number of years.

”This law makes it possible for people who want to work to do so legally. Those that are in Sweden under false pretenses can never argue their cause. Someone with a work permit can get help from their union,” he said to the paper.

Nevertheless, the Swedish Migration Board has called for rules governing the granting of work permits to be strengthened to help prevent migrant workers from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers.

From mid-January, companies need to be able to show that salaries, insurance and employers' fees have been met and that employers have been infomed of working conditions.

In addition, staffing companies based in countries outside the EU will be required to have a registered subsidiary in Sweden.

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