Swedish employers told not to let language be a barrier to hiring staff

Sweden's jobs agency has urged employers to consider hiring people with limited Swedish skills to fill vacancies, as new stats show a labour shortage amid falling unemployment.

A woman waiting tables.
Sweden's hotel and restaurant industry is crying out for workers. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

A total of 388,000 people were registered as unemployed with the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) at the end of September, 77,000 people fewer than the same month last year – a fall from 9 percent to 7.5 percent in a year.

But there’s a shortage of skilled workers, reports the service. Almost 124,000 jobs were advertised on its site in September, up from 60,000 last year and 80,000 two years ago.

“Even before the pandemic, there was a shortage of skilled labour, such as chefs, engineers and assistant nurses. Now that the labour market has started up again, the shortage is again noticeable,” writes Arbetsförmedlingen in its report on Tuesday.

Employers are also struggling to fill certain entry-level jobs, such as restaurant waiting staff. One possible reason for this is that many people in the hotel and restaurant industry were laid off during the pandemic and have in the meantime found a job in another sector.

More than 219,000 foreign-born people were registered as unemployed in September – down from 248,000 last year but more than the 168,000 native Swedish job seekers. More than 177,000 job seekers were born in a country outside of Europe, according to the report.

The number of non-European job seekers has fallen from 197,000 in September 2020, but long-term unemployment has increased within the same group. Last month, more than 96,000 non-Europeans had been without a job for at least 12 months, up 5,000 in a year.

Arbetsförmedlingen warned that around a third of its registered job seekers had never completed their upper secondary education, which is in theory voluntary in Sweden but is compulsory in practice as most job advertisements state it as a requirement.

The report added that many job seekers don’t have the level of Swedish that’s often required, and urged employers to step up their work to retain and attract the workers they need.

“It may be good to review your list of requirements as an employer. You might want to think about whether it’s possible to hire someone with limited experience or a slightly lower level of Swedish,” Arbetsförmedlingen analyst Annika Sundén told the TT newswire.

Long-term unemployment increased overall in Sweden in the past year, up 15,000 to more than 186,000 last month. However, it has fallen in recent months, from a record 190,000 in summer.

The map below shows the current unemployment rate in each of Sweden’s 21 regions.

Member comments

  1. I don’t really understand the intent of the government request/statement: if employers wanted to hire skilled people with limited Swedish or people with limited skills, but fluent in Swedish, wouldn’t they have done so already? I wonder if to get employers to change their behavior the government needs to incentivize them?

    I can tell you as a skilled person with limited Swedish (between A2 & B1), zero employers have been interested in even interviewing me for jobs I was certainly qualified for. Even when I’ve submitted CV & personlig brev på svenska. If they had wanted to interview me, they would’ve.

    I agree it’s a serious problem; I don’t think employers do, though.

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EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

The Swedish Krona last week hit a record low against the dollar, hammering the international buying power of anyone earning their salaries or holding assets in the currency. We asked Johan Löf at Handelsbanken what they can do.

EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

How low is the krona right now? 

On Tuesday, September 27th, the krona to dollar exchange rate hit an all-time-low of 11.37, easily beating the previous record low for the currency of 11.04, which it reached at the nadir of the dot com bust back in 2001. At the time of the financial crisis in 2008, a dollar would have got you less than 6 kronor, meaning the currency has almost halved in value in less than 15 years. 

A euro now gets you 10.9 kronor, which is not quite a record, with it briefly topping 11.4 in 2009, but more than it has been for most of the past decade. 

The only major currency which is more or less stable against the krona is the pound, which will now buy about 12.39 kronor, down from 13 in February, but above the levels of around 10.5 the pound hit shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union. 

Why is the krona worth so little? 

Johan Löf, the head of forecasting at the Handelsbanken bank, told The Local, that the krona always tended to take a hit at times of financial uncertainty. 

“The krona is a relatively small currency much like the Swedish economy is a relatively small economy,” he said. “You could compare it to a small boat sailing the big ocean, so when you don’t go on the course that you thought you were going, it can be a bit of a shaky ride,” he said.

“Right now with financial market conditions being volatile, with a lot of uncertainty and risks, the Swedish krona takes a hit. Investors and various agents of the economy don’t want to hold so much of this smaller currency. Instead, they they go to safe havens like the US dollar.

“So even though there are fundamentals that would suggest that the Swedish kroner will strengthen again over time, for the time being and for some foreseeable future, we think that the krona will remain quite weak.”

How are foreigners living in Sweden affected? 

It very much depends on their individual financial situation: which currency they earn their salary in, which currency they hold assets in, and which currencies they have the highest outgoings in. 

People who live and earn in Sweden, but travel regularly to countries with stronger currencies, or perhaps send remittances back to family at home, are likely be negatively affected, Löf said. 

“It makes you lose purchasing power in these other countries: you get fewer goods and less services for the money that you have in the Swedish currency.”

It’s a similar situation for people or small businesses based in Sweden, who need to, or perhaps only want to, buy goods outside of Sweden. 

On the other hand, for people who have substantial savings abroad in dollars or euros, this might be an opportunity to convert them into kronor for use in Sweden.  

“If you have savings abroad, and you feel the need to use some of those savings, when you then sell your foreign currency to buy Swedish kronor, then you will get more Swedish kronor,” Löf explained. 

What can foreigners living in Sweden do to lessen the impact of a weak krona? 

Change the currency in which you get paid 

The best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in, so if you live in Sweden but have a lot of your outgoings abroad, it’s an advantage to be paid in dollars or euros. 

If you’re considering getting a new job, perhaps favour international employers that can pay you in one of the major currencies, or if you work for a big international company, perhaps you can ask to be paid in a different currency. 

Get freelance or part-time work outside of Sweden

If you work as a freelancer, or have some spare time for additional work, consider getting part-time freelance gigs with companies abroad that pay in euros or dollars. The lower the krona sinks, the higher your real wage when you spend in Sweden. 

Time major spending for the best point in the market 

If you have savings in kronor and are considering, for instance, buying a holiday house abroad, it is probably worth waiting until the kronor has strengthened and the Swedish economy is back growing strongly. 

Similarly, if you have savings outside of Sweden in euros or in dollars, and have been planning on buying a property in Sweden, now might be a good time to consider doing so (although it may be worth waiting a few months until interest rate rises have been fully reflected in reduced Swedish property prices).

Get a multiple currency account 

It can be helpful to have an account in multiple currencies, such as those provided by banks such as Wise and Revolut. Keeping any cash in a combination of dollars, euros and kronor can reduce your exposure to any single currency. 

The advantage for foreigners living in Sweden is that you can set up US dollar, Euro and Pound accounts, each with their own local bank number, which you can use to receive and make payments domestically in each country. 

With the krona so low right now, it may not be a good idea to convert all your assets from krona to euros or dollars right now, as the currency is probably more likely to strengthen than weaken over the coming year.