The end of an era? Norway no longer the promised land for young Swedes

The tradition of young Swedes flocking to Norway to find work appears to be coming to an end, with an estimated 60 percent decrease in recent years suggesting the slowing of the oil boom has stemmed mass movement west from Sweden in search of employment.

The end of an era? Norway no longer the promised land for young Swedes
Working in Norwegian cafes and restaurants was previously a popular option for young Swedes. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB scanpix

When the Norwegian economy was at its peak it was common for young Swedes to travel across the border to work in areas like the service industry and retail, attracted by the higher salaries on offer compared to back home and a favourable exchange rate.

But these days there is less Swedish being spoken on the streets of Oslo. The difference in salaries between the two countries is no longer so great, and that combined with it being easier to find jobs in Sweden is thought to be the explanation for the shift.

“It was some time around 2014-15 that we really started to notice it. We've had a decrease of around 55-60 percent when it comes to Swedish workers compared to how it was during its heyday,” Angelika Wichmann from staffing company Kelly Services in Oslo told broadcaster SVT.

“Before there were busloads of young Swedes coming to look for jobs. Now we're having a hard time finding staff,” said Jon Paulsen, recruitment head at agency Manpower, which also reported a 60 percent decrease.

As a consequence, Norwegian employers are now looking further east. Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary are becoming popular nations to recruit staff from in an effort to try to fill the gap left by the now departed Swedes.

And there are even suggestions that a reversal of the Swedish-Norwegian exchange could be on the cards, as Swedish unemployment continues to decline and young Norwegians look for work.

Last year, financial experts started advising Norwegians to 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 noted in August. 

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.”