Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Ylva Johansson, minister for employment and integration, presented the bid at the Social Democrats' headquarters in Stockholm at a press conference attended by The Local.
“Labour immigration should focus on professions where the right staff cannot be found on the Swedish labour market. Jobs where there is no labour shortage should primarily be filled by unemployed people already living in Sweden,” reads the party's proposal.
It further suggests that a government agency should be in charge of assessing the need for certain skills in Sweden, taking into account advice from employers. By and large people outside the European Economic Area should not be offered jobs in Sweden unless there is a labour shortage in their area of work, it adds.
Asked by The Local if there is any evidence that Swedes will opt to do the kind of unskilled jobs taken by labour migrants in the country, Johansson replied:
“The very definition of a deficit profession (professions where staffing cannot be filled by the Swedish labour market) is that there isn't someone there to do the job or enough people who apply for that job, so it would be considered a deficit profession if those people don't exist.”
“But it's the case today that we direct quite a lot of tax money towards creating jobs and making it easier for people who speak bad Swedish and have low competency to get their first job in Sweden. I don't think it's feasible that we subsidize through taxes the jobs that go to people who come as labour migrants from the other side of the world, that's a poor use of tax funds.”
As for whether the Social Democrats are now singling out people who came to Sweden to work through legal means as a problem, the employment and integration minister contended that “it's not the people who are the problem, it's the employers who exploit people in vulnerable situations that are the problem”.
And she insisted that there is no need for internationals to be concerned by an apparent sharpening in rhetoric from the Social Democrats on immigrants (including finance minister Magdalena Andersson saying earlier this week that “Sweden doesn't need foreign cleaners”).
“Don't be concerned, we need many labour migrants and will in the future. We need to make it simpler to come here as a labour migrant within the areas where they're needed, and we want to ensure that serious employers are not out-competed by those who abuse the system,” Johansson concluded.
Last year, around 15,500 people from non-EU countries received work permits in Sweden. Almost a third of those moved for jobs which required less than tertiary level education, data from the Swedish Migration Agency shows. In the first three months of 2018, around one in seven of the work permits granted fell into this category.
Sweden's existing rules on labour migration, put together by the centre-right Alliance and the Green Party in 2008, state that it falls to employers to determine whether they need foreign workers to fill jobs. Previously this had been decided by assessments of labour shortages from the Swedish Employment Agency and unions.
Sweden has taken in record numbers of immigrants in recent years, and concerns have previously been raised about how to plug a growing employment gap between people born in Sweden and abroad. By the end of 2017 the unemployment rate was only four percent for native Swedes, and 22.2 percent for foreign-born.