Only one third of the 60,000 jobs filled since the law came into effect have actually landed in the hands of the much-needed specialists, according to a report in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN).
The findings come from a review of official statistics carried out by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen, LO) in order to assess the impact of the law.
“Many employers are looking for low costs and menial work, not unique competence,” Thord Ingesson, LO’s expert on migration politics, explained to DN.
When Sweden’s parliament approved legislation in 2008 to allow non-EU citizens to come to the country to work, the intention was that the work permits would allow high-skilled specialists an easier ticket into the Swedish work force in industries where there was a shortage of Swedish workers.
The law stipulates that individual employers rather than the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) decide whether there is a need to recruit foreign workers.
Instead, the majority of the permits have gone to workers in the restaurant, construction, and cleaning industries – areas that are already saturated with Swedish workers and where unemployment levels are high.
Ingesson estimates that at least half of the workers with two-year work permits in Sweden have paid for them.
He claims that between 5,000 and 10,000 permits have been sold, with prices from 30,000 kronor ($4,670) all the way up to over 100,000 kronor.
“Some buy their work permit contract, and get a safer way through the Schengen area, but they don’t necessarily get a job,” he explained.
“Or they buy it through ‘installment’ – that is, foreigners working for slave wages, thereby dumping the labour market for the unemployed in Sweden.”
Since the start of 2012, the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has vowed to tighten controls on the issuance of work permits, now requiring employers to prove that they will be able to pay workers’ wages for at least three months.
While the initiative has led to fewer applications and more rejections, around 10,000 of the 16,500 work permits issued in 2012 were for blue collar jobs, according to DN.