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POLITICS

What does Sweden’s government deal mean for internationals?

Four of Sweden's parties have announced a government deal which could help the country out of a months-long deadlock. The proposed agreement is a Social Democrat-led government, with a right-wing-influenced economic policy. So what does that mean for internationals in Sweden?

What does Sweden's government deal mean for internationals?
Centre Party leader Annie Lööf and Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund, pictured here at the opening of parliament, have reached a deal with the Social Democrats and Green Party. Photo: Anders Wiklund

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In total, the deal was 16 pages long, with 73 different points relating to 11 areas: economy and national finances, jobs and growth, policies relating to rural and regional growth, environment and climate, integration and honour-related violence, housing, schools, healthcare and elderly care, disability, migration, and national security.

Here's a look at the issues likeliest to have a big impact on the lives of foreigners in Sweden.

Migration

Sweden's temporary migration law would be extended for another two years under the deal.

Under this law, the right to family member immigration for various types of immigrants, including those granted temporary residence permits, is limited, making it harder for foreigners living in Sweden to have family members and partners come and live with them.

Sponsors (that's the person already living in Sweden) need to prove they can provide not only for themselves, but also for the person planning to move, whose own savings or income are not taken into account.

A 'stepping stone' to the workplace

Foreign-born workers are disproportionately likely to be unemployed in Sweden compared to native Swedes. One proposal aimed at combating this is the introduction of etableringsjobb, jobs with lower salaries for newly arrived people to help them enter the labour market, which would also be available to the long-term unemployed.

Housing reforms

Proposed changes to housing policy include abolishing rent controls on newly built properties and removing the interest on postponed capital gains tax from property sales.

The latter reform affects homeowners in Sweden, while the relaxation of rent regulations could make it easier for new arrivals to find a home in the country's difficult housing market. However, new builds only account for a small proportion of Sweden's housing market, so it would be unlikely to have a major effect.

Foreigners in Sweden are disproportionately likely to live in cities, where the queues for rent-controlled housing (also called första hand or first-hand contracts) are often over a decade long. This means new arrivals are less likely to benefit from rent controls, while also being less likely to own a property.

The deal also proposed tightening the punishment for illegal sales of black market contracts.

'Family week'

One big factor many internationals cite in their decisions to move to Sweden is the ease of raising a family here, and it could get even easier under the new deal.

Working parents of children aged between four and 16 would each be able to take three extra days off work a year during their children's school holidays, and single caregivers would get six days.

Citizenship

Another proposed change was the introduction of language and civics tests for would-be Swedish citizens. Foreigners would need to pass a Swedish language test and one on “fundamental understanding of society” in order to become Swedish.

Currently, most foreigners are eligible to apply for citizenship after being legally resident in the country for three to five years, depending on factors such as their country of origin and whether they are in a long-term relationship with a Swede. 

Have your say: What do you think of the proposed government deal? Members of The Local can log in to comment below.

Member comments

  1. Well calling upon families should be easier for foreigners as it is one of the basic rigthts and necessities to be with family. As for the language test I think its a good move as people should be able to speak some language before they become citizens. There are people who are citizens for many years yet they do not speak Swedish. SFI should be made mandatory i suppose. Housing is still a problem, and a better approach is needed to handle the situation.

  2. I have to admit to not being good at languages. I have worked in a mainly English speaking environment for 15 years, and every one wants to practice their English with me. It does not help that I am partially deaf. Cannot hear bird song for example, which makes other languages a bit difficult.. I guess I would fail the test.

  3. Dani – As I understand it, the agreement right now is not legally binding; Löfven has agreed that his new government will do these things, in exchange for the (passive) support of C and L. Implementation of any of these changes will need to be voted on by parliament, which might prove problematic because there is no clear majority coalition. Specific details of when the changes would take effect won’t be available until after the decisions are officially made.

  4. Alan. I sympathise with Alan McRae, I am profoundly deaf and have great difficulty in understanding or recognising Swedish words and am therefore finding learning the language extremely difficult. In a way, I feel lucky that so many people speak excellent English and he is right, people want to practice their English on us which I must say I find rather good. So, would I be allowed to stay in Sweden, I hope so, it is a lovely country.

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SWEDEN ELECTS

Sweden Elects: PM Andersson bids to reclaim patriotism and the big election issues

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson mentioned Sweden and Swedishness no fewer than 70 times in her speech at the country's largest political event, writes The Local's editor Emma Löfgren in our new column Sweden Elects – which launches this week with just over two months to go until the election.

Sweden Elects: PM Andersson bids to reclaim patriotism and the big election issues

Sweden Elects is a new weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.

——

“I love Sweden and I’m proud to be Swedish.”

If you want to win the hearts and minds of Swedes, talk about the loveliness of long summer nights, barbecues and wild swimming, and do so from a stage in one of the most picturesque towns in Sweden.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson understood that much when she last night, on the first day of Sweden’s annual political festival Almedalen Week, gave a speech that did not shy away from invoking some of the most proudly Swedish of perceived Swedish features and values – everything from fields of daisies to trust, solidarity and hard work.

It was a speech clearly designed to reclaim patriotism from the nationalists ahead of the September 11th election, with a grand total of 71 mentions of “Swedish” or “Sweden” in half an hour. There was so much talk about Swedish values that it felt at times like those forced-collective notes you get in the laundry room: In this housing association we don’t leave fluff in the dryer. “In Sweden we don’t queue jump – not the supermarket queues and not in healthcare.”

“Sweden should be that Sweden which we love in every neighbourhood,” she said as she pledged to crack down on segregation and gang crime, one of three priority areas she has previously laid out for her government.

When it came to her other two priority areas, she spoke relatively briefly about the climate crisis but spent considerably more time on her third pledge to stop privatisation and profit-making in the welfare system – an issue where the Social Democrats have tried to firmly return to their traditional left-wing roots, while moving right on crime and punishment.

If you think I’m not talking much about specific policies, it’s because the speech didn’t address them much – but to be fair to the prime minister, an Almedalen speech at the height of summer rarely does. Andersson even said it herself: “What’s at stake in this election is more than different opinions on exactly how many prison cells we need (…) it’s which values should permeate Sweden. What kind of country we should be”.

But can a technocrat such as Andersson sell that vision? A former finance minister with a successful track record, she carried herself with the most gravitas when she spoke about the negative effects on the economy on the back of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, referring to the high rate of inflation as “Putin prices”. As a leader who enjoys far higher confidence figures than her main opponent – Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate Party – she sounds more convincing when talking about the economy and specific policies than about her love for “Swedish nature, the right to roam, paddling silently over a quiet lake or smelling the coniferous forest”.

I’m curious to know how you as a reader of The Local feel when politicians talk about “Swedish values”. Do you feel included or excluded, does it depend on how they talk about them and if so, what makes the difference? Is it possible to paint a positive patriotic vision? We’re likely going to hear much more talk about Swedishness and values from other politicians in the coming days at Almedalen Week, so feel free to email your thoughts to me at [email protected] – if I’m allowed to share them on The Local or in a future newsletter, please state so clearly in your email and whether or not we may use your name.

You can read Andersson’s full speech in Swedish here and watch it here.

A more international election?

Andersson also spoke about Sweden’s military defence and landmark decision to join Nato (“it’s how we best defend Sweden’s freedom, democracy and our way of life”), and it was fitting that she did so during Almedalen Week, which is held in Visby on the island of Gotland.

Gotland, as you probably know, has received attention in Sweden and beyond in the past months. Strategically located in the Baltic Sea, the popular tourism island was at the centre of Sweden’s defence debate even before the invasion of Ukraine, and that’s even more the case now.

We can expect foreign policy to play a bigger part in this election campaign than it normally does, after Sweden and Finland last week struck a deal that moved them one step closer to joining Nato.

The most controversial point of that deal is Turkey’s claim that Sweden promised to extradite 73 individuals Turkey labelled “terrorists” in exchange for them allowing Sweden to join Nato. Swedish ministers have since said that it is in the hands of independent courts and Swedish citizens cannot in any case be deported, but Andersson has stopped short of fully denying it, and there is growing concern among Turkish and Kurdish refugees about the protection of non-citizens vs realpolitik.

It’s another example of how important it is that the voices of non-citizens are also heard in the political debate – there are a lot of people who live in Sweden, perhaps even intend to stay here permanently, who are just as invested in its future as everyone else, but aren’t yet formally citizens.

The election on September 11th is likely to be a crucial vote, with a win for the opposition bringing the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats their first chance to form national policy, and a win for the Social Democrats putting a fragile government in power for the third term in a row.

What’s next?

Almedalen Week is Sweden’s annual political festival. It takes place in the medieval town of Visby on the island of Gotland and is typically attended by around 40,000 people – 95 percent of them coming from outside Gotland. Interest has been falling in recent years, but with two months to go until the election, it’s a key event in all party leaders’ calendars.

The main highlights of the week will be the party leaders’ speeches at Almedalen, which will all be broadcast live at almedalsveckanplay.info. Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT will show them with expert comments immediately afterwards (in Swedish) – I had a look at their website and it should be possible to watch these wherever you are in the world.

Here’s when they’ll take the stage:

Monday (today), 11am. Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson.

Monday (today), 7pm. Left leader Nooshi Dadgostar.

Tuesday, 11am. Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch.

Tuesday, 7pm. Liberal leader Johan Pehrson.

Wednesday, 11am. Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson.

Wednesday, 7pm. Centre leader Annie Lööf.

Thursday, 11am. Green leader Per Bolund.

Also, don’t miss The Local’s special Almedalen episode of our Sweden in Focus podcast. Our publisher James Savage and acting editor Richard Orange have been mingling with politicians and pundits and will have the latest news for you in a special episode which will be released this week.

The Local will as always cover the Swedish election from the point of view of international citizens living in Sweden. In our Sweden Elects newsletter, I will take a look every week at the issues that affect you; the biggest talking points; the whos, hows and whys; and several extra features just for paying members (you can find out HERE how to receive the newsletter to your inbox with everything included, and membership also gives you unlimited access to all of The Local’s articles).

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