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EMPLOYMENT

Sweden has worst skills gap in global survey

Sweden has overtaken the United States as the country most in need of skilled workers, a recent global survey shows.

Sweden has worst skills gap in global survey
Workers at Spotify's head office in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The 2016 Hays Global Skills Index shows Sweden struggling to keep up with labour market demand, with more and more employers crying out for highly skilled workers. 

A total score of 6.8 puts Sweden at the top of the pile as the country with the highest labour market stress levels in a comparison of 33 skills-based economies. 

“It’s a complex index but we can see that Sweden is one of the toughest places for a company to develop and grow even though the economy as a whole is currently doing quite well,” Johan Alsén, managing director of Hays Sweden, told The Local. 

Sweden’s high score of 7.9 in the ‘talent mismatch’ category shows how hard it can be for employers to find the right people for the job. 

This mirrors a score of 8.4 for ‘education flexibility’, with a high score indicative of an inflexible education system failing to adapt to labour market needs. 

Sweden also scores 9.7 on ‘wage pressure in high-skilled industries’, a parameter seen as “indicative of the emergence of sector‑specific skills shortages (such as in engineering or technology).” 

Employers in sectors with high-skilled workers should do everything they can to hold on to current staff if they don’t want to risk difficult recruitment processes and soaring wage bills, Johan Alsén said. 

Construction engineers, for example, can often command huge pay rises when switching jobs in Sweden, he said. 

The Swedish head of the recruitment firm, which carried out the study with Oxford Economics, also echoed the concerns of tech startups about the housing shortage and restrictions on issuing stock options.

With few solutions in sight, he worried that these bottlenecks could blunt Sweden’s competitive edge.

“In the end if you can find a country with the same or lower salary rates and better housing, then why fight to stay in Sweden?”

Employers in Sweden have scarcely masked their anger with regulators this year, with high-profile tech figures like Spotify founder Daniel Ek supporting foreign workers caught up in bureaucratic nets. 

In one case, a “world class” Pakistani developer was told to leave the country because a previous employer had made an error when filling out some paperwork. 

Earlier, a worker from Bangladesh was deported because he found his job through LinkedIn.

READ ALSO: 'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape'

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READER QUESTIONS

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.”

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