Agency chief Angeles Bermudez-Svankvist made her comments on Thursday at The Economist’s Digital Horizons Conference in Stockholm
She first addressed her own previous work in health care, adding that in retrospect she felt that employers in Sweden need not always demand perfect Swedish from their would-be staff.
“If you are a brain surgeon, do you need perfect Swedish when you are operating on someone who is sedated?” she asked the audience rhetorically.
Bermudez-Svankvist decided to continue her talk about seeing hidden competences also among young people – of whom one in four is not in work – by referring to the string of vandalism across Stockholm in May, after unrest in the suburb Husby spread.
“These revolutionary acts, because we are talking about revolution aren’t we?” she joked about the title of the debate, Workforce Revolution, which looked at how digital technology could help employers and jobseekers find each other.
“These acts show organizational skills, these are people who follow a leader,” she said about the arson attacks on buildings and cars that grabbed headline space across the world.
Bermudez-Svankvist also pointed out that there was a working-condition like aspect to why some young people end up engaging in crime.
“Those leaders ’employ’ you even if you’re young, they even take you out for coffee,” she said.
Sweden has long been at loss over how to tackle youth unemployment, with a string of governments looking at various solutions. There has been discussion about the price of labour, while both the centre-right government and the left-leaning opposition have signaled their interest in mimicking successful apprenticeships schemes from other countries.
While Sweden is doing well compared to, for example, crisis-hit Spain where youth unemployment is 40 percent, Swedish youths are much more likely to be out of work than their older peers.
“Unemployment among the under 24s in Sweden is 24.2 percent, or four times the average unemployment rate of 8 percent,” the UN stated in a recent roundup of western European labour markets.