Sweden’s bid to speed foreigners into work

A new fast-track scheme's been proposed to help foreign skilled workers find employment more quickly in Sweden. The plans, which were presented by the Swedish government on Monday, could come into effect within a year.

Sweden's bid to speed foreigners into work
Many foreign professionals struggle to find work in Sweden. Photo: Lena Granefelt/

One of Sweden's centre-left coalition's goals is to push down unemployment to the lowest rate in the European Union by 2020. But the bid has been slammed as a pie-in-the-sky dream by some critics, as Sweden continues to battle a jobless rate which has stuck stubbornly at around 8.0 percent in recent years.

To combat the trend, Employment Minister Ylva Johansson presented plans to kick-start Sweden's jobs growth on Monday morning, including a new fast-track scheme for educated foreign professionals.

“The jobs market is relatively strong. The growth of new jobs is good, but this has still had quite a weak effect on unemployment,” said the minister.

Employment Minister, Ylva Johansson, presenting the plans on Monday. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Her proposals follow a series of talks with industry experts to find ways in which to get newly arrived foreign professionals on to the jobs market quickly, to plug holes where there is high demand for skilled workers.

“It feels completely insane that these highly competent people arrive and we can't get them out on to the jobs market,” Johansson told reporters at a press conference.

READ ALSO: 'Sweden must be able to attract global talent'

The plans, which are set to be rolled out in 2016, are still being drawn up and how they will look depends on the industry concerned. But in theory, a doctor waiting to get their foreign certificate validated in Sweden could perhaps seek employment as an assistant nurse in the meantime. And a chef who speaks English could start working while learning Swedish.

But the scheme is unlikely to create large volumes of new jobs, said Johansson, although she did not want to offer an exact estimate. However, on the whole the unemployment rate, which is currently at 7.8 percent, is expected to fall to 7.5 percent this year and 7.3 percent in 2016.

Figures released by Statistics Sweden in February this year demonstrated that the overall rise in employment was “mainly due to a rise in employment among foreign born persons”, with this figure increasing by 81,000 between January 2014 and January 2015.

READ ALSO: 'Educated immigrants get stuck in limbo'

It followed figures released by Sweden's Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) in November 2014 which suggested it is already getting easier for foreign-born graduates to find a job in Sweden.

The service reported that 71 per cent of graduates born outside of Europe and living in Sweden were working in 2013, compared to just 58 percent in 2005.

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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.”