Fewer foreign graduates stay in Sweden to work

The number of non-EU graduates pursuing careers in Sweden after they finish their university studies has dropped sharply in the past years, according to figures by the Migration Agency.

Fewer foreign graduates stay in Sweden to work
A workplace in Sweden. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Two years ago Sweden introduced new rules giving students from countries outside the European Union permission to stay another six months after their studies to apply for jobs and work permits, a move designed to retain more skilled foreign workers.

But a report by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper published on Tuesday suggests the measure may have failed.

In 2013, a total of 849 work permits were handed out to non-EU citizens finding employment after graduating from university in Sweden, according to Migration Agency statistics cited by DN. Two years later it had dropped to 419. At the end of July this year, the figure stood at 212.

“It is very unfortunate that it has not changed because there is great demand for the skills these students have,” Amelie von Zweigbergk, who represents the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen), told the newspaper.

More than 9,000 students from non-EU/EEA countries were enrolled at Swedish universities in 2015.

“I've been to an interview, and I've been told that my CV is interesting. I think the biggest problem is that I am not Swedish and don't speak very good Swedish,” Mexican student Jorge Mucino, who recently graduated from the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, told DN.

The Local has previously written about the struggle faced by many foreign workers and graduates to find work in Sweden. Labour Minister Ylva Johansson pinned part of the problem on “discrimination” in an interview with The Local Voices – a site which gives a fresh voice to newcomers – earlier this year.

Representatives from Sweden's Confederation of Professional Associations (Saco), an organization promoting and supporting unions made up of various professions, last month urged employers to drop the need for perfect Swedish when filling jobs.

“A lack of high language ability should not weed out otherwise high-performing people,” they wrote in an opinion piece translated by The Local and first published by Sydsvenskan.

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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.”