The Local's publisher James Savage kicked off the panel with a direct question for mayor Anna König Jerlmyr: “What is your first priority when it comes to attracting global talent to Stockholm?”
König Jerlmyr named three priorities: “It is about creating high quality living in Stockholm. We are also currently working on attracting international universities to Stockholm, like Harvard or MIT. For that matter, we want to start a marketing programme – many international cities have one and that would be really helpful.”
The panel. From left to right: Mayor Anna König Jerlmyr, Ahmed Abdirahman, Johanna Jönsson and Fredrik von Essen. Photo: Nele Schröder/The Local
The event was held at UMA – a new co-working space in the heart of Stockholm, with James Savage moderating together with Elizabeth Walentin, CEO of PR firm Crimson Clarke.
Joanna Jönsson, member of Parliament and spokesperson for migration for the Centre party, agreed with König Jerlmyr, but also noted the challenges: “Yes, you want people to come here, but you also want them to be able to stay – that means the problems with their expiring work permits have to stop.”
“That is an issue we have in the whole of Sweden,” added Ahmed Abdirahman, immigration policy expert at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. “What we from the Chamber of Commerce want to introduce is a talent visa, so that international talent can stay here.”
“We need any kind of talent that brings business forward,” agreed Fredrik von Essen, public affairs expert at IT and Telekomföretagen. “For that, Stockholm needs to cooperate with the immigration board.”
Fredrik von Essen, Ahmed Abdirahman, Elizabeth Walentin, Anna König Jerlmyr, James Savage and Johanna Jönsson. Photo: Nele Schröder/The Local
The panel also discussed what made Stockholm attractive for expats. Von Essen spoke of “the two S’s,” meaning Spotify and Skype. Abdirahman mentioned the beauty of the city, good healthcare and its suitability for families.
“What we have to look into now are the problems, like the housing situation.” König Jerlmyr agreed: “Many expats want to raise a family here. So we also need more international schools in Stockholm.”
An aspect of the evening that led to some controversial discussions among the panel guests was the topic of language: “How important is learning Swedish for expats here?” asked Elizabeth Walentin.
According to the panellists, it is not necessary to speak Swedish to be included in society.
Mingle at UMA Workspace. Photo: Nele Schröder/The Local
“Obviously we need some sort of language to understand each other. If that’s English or Swedish – I don’t care,” said Jönsson. “Swedish isn’t necessary, but English is,” agreed von Essen. Although he also added that everyone who wishes to learn Swedish should be encouraged.
The evening ended with a prize-draw with prizes such as a one-year membership to The Local, a coaching by Crimson Clarke or a workspace at UMA.
“It's great to see politicians and business leaders really seeing the importance of making international talent feel at home in Stockholm,” said James Savage.