7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ‘a-kassa’

Perhaps you have a “collective agreement” at work. Maybe you’re a member of a union. But have you joined an a-kassa?

7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'

There’s a lot to keep track of when you move to a foreign country, and it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks. Many expats in Sweden are unaware of their options for unemployment insurance – and all the benefits it offers.

The Swedish word for unemployment insurance fund is arbetslöshetskassa – simply called a-kassa for short. There are multiple a-kassa funds in Sweden, but the largest is Akademikernas a-kassa, an unemployment benefit fund specifically for workers with higher education.

Here are seven reasons why you should join today.

1. More bang for your buck

While everyone working in Sweden is eligible for unemployment insurance at a low, basic level, the compensation is limited.

But members of an unemployment fund like Akademikernas a-kassa can receive up to 80 percent of their previous salaries, making the transition between jobs a whole lot smoother.

2. It’s simply smart

Some people figure they don't need unemployment insurance, since they already have jobs.
But think about it like this: Do you get car insurance because you plan on crashing your car?

Probably not. But you still pay that monthly fee for the security it gives you, on the off-chance that something might happen. The choice to get unemployment insurance should be just as obvious.

3. It’s cheap

Unlike car insurance, membership in an unemployment fund is actually really cheap! Akademikernas a-kassa charges just 100 kronor each month. The fund is not-for-profit and there’s no reason for them to charge members a fortune. Think about it – that’s less than the cost of a single meal out in Stockholm!

4. For security

The security of an unemployment fund isn’t just in case you get fired. There are plenty of other scenarios where it could come in handy.

What if your company goes bankrupt? What if you meet someone, fall in love, and want to move to another city but don’t have a job there yet? What if you get a new boss at work whom you simply can’t tolerate?

With unemployment insurance, you don’t have to stick around. You have the freedom to change your mind while still receiving a different salary.

5. To try something new

Even if nothing goes wrong and you absolutely love your job, maybe you get tired after 10 years of doing the same thing. Or perhaps you have an itch to try out a new career, but you’re worried about making a living before your new pursuit takes off.

With the security of unemployment insurance, you can dare to try new things and move around the labour market. And if you plan on going back to school to learn a new trade, it's not a problem: Unemployment funds protect the salary you've had, and periods of unemployment due to studying don't affect the benefits you can get.

6. It’s independent

Some workers choose not to join unions due to political reasons. And politics can complicate things.

With Akademikernas a-kassa that's a non-issue. The fund is completely independent and its sole purpose is to distribute benefits to the unemployed. It's as simple as that!

7. One for all and all for one

You might never lose your job. But what if your neighbour or best friend does? Swedes are famous for their solidarity – taxes may be high, sure, but everyone benefits so everyone is willing to contribute.

At the moment just 1 percent of the members in Akademikernas a-kassa are unemployed – but they're supported by the other 99 percent, making the burden barely noticeable. And unemployment benefits from a fund are cheaper than state welfare from tax-payer money – so it’s a win-win for everyone.

Find out more and apply for Akademikernas a-kassa


This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Akademikernas a-kassa.

For members


EXPLAINED: Can you negotiate a pay rise in Sweden to offset inflation?

With Sweden's central bank expecting inflation of nearly 8% this year, everyone working in the country is in line for a real-terms pay cut. We asked Gunilla Krieg, central ombudsman at the Unionen union, what scope there is to negotiate a salary hike to compensate.

EXPLAINED: Can you negotiate a pay rise in Sweden to offset inflation?

With Sweden’s central bank expecting inflation of nearly 8% this year, everyone working in the country is in line for a real-terms pay cut. We asked Gunilla Krieg, central ombudsman at the Unionen union, what scope there is to negotiate a salary hike to compensate.

How soon can I get a pay rise to compensate for high inflation? 

Probably not for a while. 

About 90 percent of workers in Sweden are covered by the collective bargaining agreements made between employers and the country’s trade unions. The last round of salary deals was negotiated at the union-employer level back in 2020, and most of them will remain valid until March or April next year.

This means that most employees in Sweden will not see their salaries adjusted to take inflation into account for at least nine months. 

“Under this special model that we have, we already have a level for the wage increases for this year, so you can’t get compensation for the inflation right now,” Krieg explained. 

You might be able negotiate a pay rise in addition to what the unions have agreed in your personal salary review, she added. 

“Of course, you have that freedom. Whether you work in a small company, or a big company, a company that has a collective agreement, or one that doesn’t, you always have the freedom to ask for a salary rise,” Krieg said. 

The only issue is that most unionised companies only offer personal salary reviews once a year, and for the majority of employees, the window of opportunity passed in the spring. 

“You have to find out when you have a salary review as part of the collective agreement you have at your own workplace,” Krieg recommended. “For most collective agreements, that is in the spring, although some collective agreements have it in the autumn.” 

What if I’m not part of a union? 

If you are among the 10% of workers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, you can ask for a pay rise whenever you like, but unlike union members, you have no right to a pay rise. The decision is wholly up to your employer. 

Gunilla Krief is the central ombudsman for the Unionen union. Photo: Patrik Nygren/Unionen

So will the unions eventually negotiate above-inflation pay increases? 

Probably not. 

Unions in Sweden have historically been quite responsible, and understood the risk of creating a wage-price spiral by demanding wage increases that match or exceed inflation.

“Twenty-five years ago, we had a really high wage increases in Sweden, and we had very, very big inflation, so people got more money in their wallets, but they couldn’t buy anything, because inflation went up much higher than wages,” Krieg explained, putting the union perspective.

“We always take responsibility for the entire labour market, and that’s good in the long term,” she added. “There’s been much more money in the wallet for employees in Sweden over the past 25 years. That’s why we think we should we should not panic because of inflation. It may be that for one year it will mean less money in the wallet, but in the long run we benefit.” 

Can I argue for an inflation-busting pay rise in my salary review? 

You can certainly argue for a pay rise of 8 percent, or even more, but you don’t cite inflation as a reason for it. 

“Everything is individual, so you can, of course, negotiate up your salary, and there is no limit to how much you can ask for,” Krieg explained.

“If you have a job or an education for which there’s a shortage on the Swedish market, then you can get a much higher wage increase. Up in the north of Sweden, where we have [the battery manufacturer] Northvolt, and we have mines and the steel industry, they are looking for a lot of competence right now, and there you can have a much higher rise in wages.” 

But, particularly if you’re covered by collective bargaining, you can’t really cite inflation as justification, as that is one of the factors that unions and employers are supposed to factor in during their negotiations. 

What’s the best way of getting a big pay rise? 

The best way to get a pay hike of as much as 5,000 kronor or 10,000 kronor a month, Krieg suggests, is to apply for other jobs, even if you don’t end up taking them. 

“You can get offers from other companies, and then you can tell your employer that ‘I really liked it here, I enjoy this work, and I want to stay here, but now they are offering me 10,000 kronor more at another company, and if you can raise my salary like that,  of course I will stay here’,” she said.

In a normal salary interview, she adds, it’s important to be able to demonstrate your results. Look again at your job description, and what your goals are for the year, and identify concrete achievements that meet or exceed these goals. If you have any additional duties, you can cite them to argue for a higher salary. If you’ve done any courses, or learned any skills, you can cite these. 

At any time in the year, if your superiors praise any work you have done, keep those emails, or write it down, so that in your salary review, you can say, “you said that this report I did was ‘the best you’ve ever seen’,” or such like. 

Finally, you should find out in advance if there are any salary criteria being applied, so that you can argue that you exceed them, and so demand a higher raise than that agreed for the company as a whole with the union.