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Sweden pledges to give up to 10,000 care workers permanent jobs

Swedish authorities and labour unions have agreed to permanently hire up to 10,000 nursing assistants and care workers to help plug gaps in elderly care exposed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Sweden pledges to give up to 10,000 care workers permanent jobs
File photo of a care home in Stockholm, not linked to the story. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The boost in staff is the result of a deal between the government, Sweden's largest labour union Kommunal, and the country's municipalities which are tasked with managing elderly care.

“The virus outbreak has shown that elderly care is vulnerable, and that has structural explanations,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told reporters.

“It's basically about staff's conditions,” Hallengren added.

Half of the over 3,300 deaths from COVID-19 reported in Sweden have been among nursing home residents, and another quarter among those receiving care at home.

The failure to protect vulnerable nursing home residents has been widely debated in the Nordic country. Some critics have blamed staff working conditions, with reports that many had to work without protective gear.

In March, Kommunal said that 40 percent of staff at nursing homes in Stockholm – the epicentre of the Swedish epidemic – were unskilled workers employed on short-term contracts, with hourly wages and no job security, while 23 percent were temps.

These were people who often could not afford not to go to work even if they were sick, they argued.

This latest deal on recruitment follows an announcement by the government on Tuesday to commit 2.2 billion Swedish kronor ($225 million, 208 million euros) to allow care workers to receive paid on-the-job training.

On Wednesday, the government announced that this had now been complemented through a deal between the union and the public employers, which would mean that those who were trained would be offered permanent employment contracts.

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READER QUESTIONS

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.”

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