Sweden ‘worst in EU’ for jobless foreigners

Sweden is the worst country in the EU when it comes to closing the long-term unemployment gap between foreign-born workers and people born in the country, according to statistics published on Monday.

Sweden 'worst in EU' for jobless foreigners

The figures come from a study carried out by Statistics Sweden between 2001 and 2013 that dealt exclusively with long-term unemployment in a European perspective. Researchers found that when it came to long-term unemployment in 2012, Sweden was the EU country with the largest gap between those born in Sweden and those born elsewhere, in terms of time spent unemployed.

The report found that Sweden nevertheless had one of the most promising records when it came to the percentage of the population that was unemployed long term, with 2012 records showing that only 37.1 percent of Sweden's unemployed were jobless for longer than six months, and only 18.9 percent for longer than 12 months. Norway was the only European country with lower long-term unemployed figures, clocking in at 35.7 percent for longer than six months, although 19.9 percent were out of work for 12 months or more. The 2012 EU average, meanwhile, was 62.4 percent.

But the most glaring discrepancy for Sweden was the difference between long-term unemployment times when comparing workers born in the country and those born elsewhere.

In 2012, 31.3 percent of unemployed workers born in Sweden were considered long-term unemployed. The corresponding figure for foreign-born workers, however, was 48.1 percent. In other words, almost one in two unemployed foreigners in Sweden endured an unemployment period of longer than six months, while less than one in three Sweden-born suffered the same fate. 

No other country had such a large discrepancy, according to the study, which included the 28 EU member states and Norway. The only country with a marginally comparable statistic line was Norway, where 33.1 percent of the total unemployed domestic-born population was long-term unemployed, while 41.2 percent of those born abroad had a six-month or longer period of joblessness.

In some countries, such as Malta and Poland, statistics indicated the opposite, with people born in Poland accounting for 61 percent of the country's long-term unemployed, while only 33 percent of Poland's long-term unemployed were foreign-born workers. On average, the discrepancy between the domestic- and foreign-born long-term unemployment rates was relatively small across the EU, with a slightly higher percentage of workers born in-country, 62.5 percent, considered to be long-term unemployed, compared to 61.8 percent for foreign-born workers.

The report provides a somewhat different picture than another Statistics Sweden report published on Monday that found roughly seven of ten new jobs created in Sweden since 2006 went to people born outside of Sweden.

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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.”