Swedish unemployment rate rises towards 2008 financial crisis levels

Unemployment in Sweden rose in June, with over half a million people in total without work, and young people are the most severely affected.

Swedish unemployment rate rises towards 2008 financial crisis levels
With unemployment close to 10 percent, how long will it take for the labour market to recover? File photo: Petra Älvstrand / TT

“We are in principle back at the peak of unemployment during the financial crisis,” said Olle Holmgren, an economist at bank SEB. “The peak in a single month in 2009 was at 9.3 percent, adjusted for seasonal variations.”

In total, 557,000 people were jobless in June 2020, equivalent to an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, up 2.6 percentage points from the previous month. That's an extra 150,000 people without employment. 

Even adjusted for seasonal variations (for example, during summer maybe students are registered as unemployed), the rate remained high at 9.2 percent, up from 8 percent the previous month.

Among young people, the unemployment rate was even higher at 32 percent, an increase of 8.7 percentage points according to Statistics Sweden. 

The biggest change was in the hotel and restaurant industry, both hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and global travel restrictions even if Sweden never fully locked down society as many other countries did.

In this branch, the number of hours worked (adjusted for differences in the calendar) dropped by 41.1 percent compared to June last year.

SEB predicts that unemployment will continue to rise throughout the rest of 2020 and the start of next year, reaching a peak of around 10.5 percent unemployment after seasonal adjustments. That's a slightly more severe outlook than the forecasts from Sweden's Central Bank, which predict that a peak of 9.6 percent will be reached in 2020's third quarter.

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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.”