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

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

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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.

Jobs in Sweden

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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