Complaints spark refugee guide review

After a huge jump in the number of complaints lodged about staff employed by Sweden's Employment Agency to help new refugee immigrants find work, there will be a review of the service.

Complaints spark refugee guide review
A branch of Arbetsförmedlingen - Sweden's Employment Agency. Photo: TT
'Introduction guides' (etableringslotsar) are employed by private companies working for Sweden's Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) and are responsible for helping newly arrived refugees get their feet in the door of the Swedish work force.
New figures suggest the guides are the subject of more complaints than all the agency's other services combined.
The number of complaints increased by 54 percent over the first nine months of this year, with almost 300 people logging criticisms about them.
According to Sweden's Employment Agency's website, the guides should provide help with the "personal contacts, language skills, and knowledge of Swedish society and working life" that is often needed to get a job in Sweden, alongside relevant experience or qualifications.
"The guide's assignment is to support you in gathering these experiences with his knowledge of and contacts in the labour market and society," the site reads.
But recent complaints include claims that some immigrants rarely got the chance to meet their guide, that their guide went on holidays without organizing a replacement, and that some guides never showed up at all.
Sweden's Employment Agency says the service is currently being used by around 30,000 people.
Asylum seekers and refugees are the main target groups and a large proportion of potential workers that make use of the guides are from Syria.

"It is not good that we have had these complaints and they put the whole policy in a bad light," Erik Lejdemyr a spokesperson for Sweden's Employment Agency told The Local.
"We are now reviewing the way we do things. We are trying to have better quality control for all the services we buy in for our customers," he added.
Last year several companies were accused of bribing refugees with free tablet computers to get them to choose their representatives as introduction guides. Sweden's Employment Agency says it has cracked down on firms using this strategy. 
The Social Democrats, who lead the current coalition government, have talked about abolishing the system of introduction guides entirely, but a final decision has yet to be made.

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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.”