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How to get your Swedish career back on track after the pandemic

If you've lost your job due to the coronavirus crisis, you're certainly not the only one. Unemployment figures in Sweden — and elsewhere, for that matter — have increased dramatically the last couple of months. But here's a look at the steps you can take to boost your career in Sweden even now.

Understandably, your first priority may be to secure your finances during unemployment. The government has pledged to support companies and individuals who are struggling financially as a result of the coronavirus and its consequences, with a series of support packages and tax exemptions. If you recently lost your job, the chances are that you are entitled to unemployment benefits.

But you may also be hoping to get on the labour market again as soon as possible. So we spoke to experts to find out what your options are under current circumstances, and where to start.

Register at the Public Employment Service

First thing's first: if you lose your (Swedish) job, it's imperative to register at the Swedish Public Employment Service, Arbetsförmedlingen. Do this on the very first day of your unemployment, so that your unemployment insurance fund (arbetslöshetskassan or a-kassa) can establish your right to receive benefits from that first day onwards, if you've been a member of one of these funds long enough.

Find out more about the funds here – Sweden's government has changed the rules during coronavirus so that more people are eligible for this insurance.

A second step is planning a meet-up with Arbetsförmedlingen. To get the most out of your meeting it's advisable to come prepared: update your CV, get hold of proof of grades or other qualifications, request letters of recommendation from former employers or others who can attest to your abilities, and think about what you'd be hoping or willing to work with.

Search at Platsbanken, in particular under the hashtag #jobbjustnu

Arbetsförmedlingen has the largest job database in Sweden with about 35-40 percent of all available jobs showing up in their system, their adviser for European recruitment Thomas Engel told The Local Sweden. The database is called Platsbanken.

And despite the fact that the coronavirus is having a devastating impact on the Swedish economy, there are also employers with an urgent need for staff. These employers are encouraged to publish job openings under the new entry #jobbjustnu, ‘jobs right now', so be sure to be on the lookout for this section.


File photo: Maskot/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

Unsurprisingly, many of these jobs are in the healthcare sector; there's an exceptionally high demand for doctors, nurses and other healthcare or elderly care staff.

What if you'd be willing to lend a helping hand in the public health sector, but you have little or no experience? “Some employers”, Engel said, “offer short training programs after which you can start working as, for example, an assistant nurse”. It's just a matter of reaching out and asking what options are available.

Other sectors are in need of personnel, too; about one fifth of the job openings on Platsbanken are in marketing. And then there's also seasonal work, for example in the forest or berry-picking industries.

Keep in mind that Platsbanken features many but not all available jobs, so make sure to also look through postings at, for example, Linkedin, other job databases, or simply visit the webpages and job listings of companies or organizations you could imagine yourself working for.

Approach potential employers

What Engel advises more than anything else is to get in touch with people working in the sector(s) you hope to work in and establish some degree of relationship.

“In Sweden the job market is not as formal as in many other countries. Here, it puts you in great advantage if you approach possible employers as a professional, not just as a job seeker,” he explains. This means that alongside formally applying for jobs, it will increase your chances of finding work if you actually get in touch with relevant people in the field and describe your situation.


Photo: Martina Holmberg/TT

An organisation that could assist you with this is Yrkesdörren, an organisation that connects foreign born workers with someone who works in your industry, or the industry you're interested in, and is well-established in Sweden. They can help with questions like CV and interview tips, information on the industry within Sweden, and giving advice on how best to get a job in your sector.

After your meeting you'll get connected with two more people working in your field, the aim being that with a larger relevant network, the bigger the chance that you'll find a suitable job at some point. 

The organizations claims that about one in four find a job or internship thanks to the connections they make through Yrkesdörren. The services Yrkesdörren provide are free.

Study yourself out of the crisis

Have you been living in Sweden for a while but never got around to actually learning Swedish? This might be the time, said Engel.

“We highly recommend expats and other non-Swedes in the country to learn the language – whatever sector your expertise is in. It's one of the best investments you can make and it broadens the scope of job opportunities drastically,” he advises.

Another popular option is to start studying (again). For nationals of EEA countries, there are no higher education fees. Alternatively, you may be able to apply for a loan or funding at CSN

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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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