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

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
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.

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.

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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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