Norwegians told to seek their fortune in Sweden

Unemployed Norwegians are being urged to head for greener pastures in Sweden as the country's oil boom peters out, reversing the age-old trend of young Swedes moving to Norway to work.

Norwegians told to seek their fortune in Sweden
Time for Norwegians to move to Sweden? Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord/NTB scanpix/TT

Sweden's unemployment rate has been on a downwards curve in the past few years. In June 11,000 fewer Swedes aged 18-24 were without a job compared to the same month last year.

But the situation is starkly different across the border, where the number of unemployed Norwegians aged 15-24 grew by 22,000 people in the past year alone, according to Statistics Norway.

The well-known trend of Swedes moving to Norway to work peaked between 2011 and 2014. It was even the subject of the award-winning Swedish film Svenskjävel (Underdog in English), which follows a Swedish au pair who has an affair with her Norwegian employer.

But financial experts are now advising young Norwegians to instead look for work in Sweden, particularly in the construction sector, teaching and computer engineering.

“Norwegians should seek their fortune in Sweden. It is certainly worth the trip,” Terje Strøm, chief economist at the Ny Analyse institute in Norway, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

Even unemployed oil workers should quit Norway for Sweden, he added.

“Working a few years in Swedish industry could be very useful for future jobs when the labour market has improved in Norway.”

“In the past ten years more than 100,000 Swedes have come to the Norwegian labour market and helped us here. So it is good if Norwegians can go in the other direction now,” he said.

READ ALSO: Want a job? Here's where Sweden needs people

Swedes are the second-largest immigrant group in Norway after the Poles, but last year was the first time since the new millennium that the country saw a negative net migration of Swedes.

“Over the past year the demand for labour in Norway has been much lower, while demand has been very high in Sweden,” Harald Magnus Andreassen, the chief Norway economist for Sweden’s Swedbank, told Aftenposten in December.

“There have never been more vacancies than there are now in Sweden. There is simply much less reason to go to Norway.”

For members


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.”