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More foreign workers in Sweden’s public sector

One in four workers employed in Sweden's public sector last year was foreign-born, according to new statistics published on Tuesday, a figure experts claim reflect Sweden's own diversifying society.

More foreign workers in Sweden's public sector

“Swedish society is changing, it’s becoming more diversified, and this is reflected in the state sector,” Lars Andrén, head of communications at Swedish Agency for Government Employers (Arbetsgivarverket), told The Local.

The agency revealed on Tuesday that 24 percent of workers hired by public sector agencies last year were either born outside of Sweden, or had foreign-born parents. Most of the new workers were employed in the social sectors, such the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) and Sweden’s Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen).

The increase means that 7,400 foreigners joined the public sector’s workforce in 2012, marking a 2.5-percent increase since 2011. Andrén puts the change down to more foreigners completing Swedish university programmes.

“One explanation is probably that the percentage of people with a foreign background is increasing at universities, and Sweden’s state sector is the one with the highest level of highly educated employees,” he said.

“That means there is a wider range of people from which we were able to recruit.”

This analysis was reflected by the fact that it was mostly younger foreigners who were employed. While just over 40 percent of total employees were between the ages of 25 and 34, this figure was 52.2 percent for foreigners.

Currently, Sweden’s public sector boasts 36,000 foreigners on the payroll, or roughly 15 percent of all employees. The continuing increase in foreign-born workers was welcomed by the agency.

“We think having diverse backgrounds is beneficial for our effectiveness, especially as we get a different perspective on the way we operate,” Andrén told The Local.

“It’s important to represent the society in general, and our employees are representatives of how the society is changing. We think that’s important.”

Oliver Gee

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READER QUESTIONS

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.”

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