Age discrimination begins at 40 for job-seekers in Sweden

Even job applicants in their early 40s start feeling the effects of age discrimination in the Swedish labour market, according to a new study. And 20 years later, your chances are extremely slim.

Age discrimination begins at 40 for job-seekers in Sweden
Are you feeling invisible in the labour market? You may not be alone. Photo: Petra Älvstrand/TT

“It is a problem, both for society and for the individual,” economist Magnus Carlsson, co-author of a new report for the government-appointed Delegation for Senior Labour, told the TT news agency.

He and fellow economist Stefan Eriksson sent more than 6,000 fake job applications to around 2,000 companies, applying for work in seven areas, picked to be as representative as possible: Administrative assistants, shop sales assistants, drivers, business sellers, chefs, cleaners and restaurant staff.

One of the most surprising things they found was that age discrimination started much earlier than they had previously thought. Applicants in their early 40s were already less attractive than younger workers.

“We had a hypothesis before the study that there would be a breaking point at the age of 55. If you look at labour market statistics on unemployment and the chances of getting a job, it looks like something happens at that point. It was surprising that it started so early,” Carlsson told TT.


It gets worse the older you get. For job applicants in their mid-60s, the probability of getting contacted by a potential new employer is only around two to three percent, according to the study.

The authors concluded that explanations may be stereotypes about people's ability to learn new things, adapt and take initiatives as they grow older, rather than employers being actively opposed to older people.

The pattern was observed in all professions investigated, and hit women harder than men.

The Delegation for Senior Labour is part of a government-ordered series of reports which aim to spread knowledge and research about older talent, and propose policies for a more inclusive labour market.

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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.”