Working in Sweden: five reasons to protect your income
Uncertainty is a fact of life even at the best of times and much of what we thought was certain or secure has proven to have shaky foundations over the past couple of years. Long-term unemployment in Sweden recently hit a record level of 190,000, while tens of millions of jobs have been lost worldwide due to the pandemic.
While unemployment insurance is compulsory in most of the EU and the UK, it’s partially voluntary in Sweden. To be entitled to the full income insurance benefits available in Sweden, you have to join an a-kassa, an unemployment fund that pays income-related insurance benefits.
Little wonder that Eva Nordmark, Sweden's Minister for Employment, encouraged all workers in Sweden to join an a-kassa unemployment fund during the pandemic. The Local has partnered with Akademikernas a-kassa, Sweden's biggest provider for university graduates, to give you five reasons why it still makes sense to take her advice, whatever the future brings.
Sweden is well-known for providing a generous social safety net. But few expats arrive with much idea of how it all works in practice. A-kassa funds are a crucial part of the Swedish system, providing members with income-related unemployment benefits when needed. You’re eligible to join if you’re a university graduate and currently work – or have previously worked – in Sweden, the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
Akademikernas a-kassa, one of the biggest funds, is specifically for people who graduated from higher education. Your profession is irrelevant. If you have a bachelor’s degree and work in Sweden, the fund is for you. Nor does it matter if you change your line of work or set up your own business; you can stay with the fund for your whole career. If you are working and currently studying for a bachelor’s degree, you can also join now.
It may be designed for people with above-average earning potential – but that doesn’t mean it’s expensive. The fee to join Akademikernas a-kassa is 130 kronor per month. Everyone pays the same rate because the fund has over 750,000 members and unemployment among them is low.
It is sometimes necessary to be in an a-kassa to get a loan, for instance for a mortgage from a bank, meaning you may get even more value for your money.
As of January 2021, you need to have been a member for one year before you can claim compensation based on your income. You can receive up to 80 percent of your previous salary with a ceiling of 1,200 kronor per day before tax (up from 910 kronor per day before the pandemic) for the first 100 days. If you had an average monthly salary of at least 33,000 kronor in the last year, you qualify for the maximum. From day 101, the maximum compensation is 1,000 kronor before tax per day.
Benefits paid to qualifying members now begin from day one, rather than day seven, as they have in the past.
You can receive payment for five days a week over a period of 300 days – that’s around 14 months. If you are a parent with children under 18, the maximum period is 450 days. Everyone who qualifies receives income-related benefits without any means-testing.
4. Covering the self-employed
Every economy needs its entrepreneurs. But in times of insecurity, the self-employed often feel they face extra burdens. This is no secret in forward-thinking Sweden; the self-employed have been entitled to join an a-kassa for almost 50 years.
As a member of Akademikernas a-kassa, if you start a business and it does not go as hoped your unemployment pay can be based on the income of your previous job (up to 24 months after leaving).
5. Nobody knows the future
As we have seen over the last two years, the world – and our own personal circumstances – can change very quickly. There is every reason for individuals, as well as nations, to want to be prepared.
Looking further ahead, being a member of an a-kassa could offer you protection in all kinds of unexpected or unplanned situations. With Akademikernas a-kassa, you can even claim during time between jobs if you take things into your own hands some day and choose to switch careers.
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