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WORKING IN SWEDEN

Part-time work worsens Swedish women’s pay deficit: Union

Only four out of ten women work full time in Sweden, meaning the real gender gap in take-home pay is much larger than it appears, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation has said in a blog to mark International Women's Day.

Part-time work worsens Swedish women's pay deficit: Union
Too many nurses and elderly care workers are only employed part time, according to the Swedish Trade Union Confederation. Photo: TT

According to Susanna Gideonsson, the confederation’s chair, part-time workers take home on average 5,000 kronor less a month, something she said was “an enormous amount of money” for the average worker.  

“It is deplorable, that’s the best way to sum it up,” Susanna Gideonsson, the confederation’s chair, told the TT newswire. “Women in blue-collar jobs have toiled like animals during the pandemic. At the same time, their salaries have lagged behind.” 

She said that many women working in elderly care, as care workers, or in shops were not given full-time contracts, forcing women to make do with low levels of take-home pay. 

“It’s been this way for decades, but very little has happened,” she continued. “A huge number of women working with flexible hours contracts, which means they have to chase as many hours as they can get and always be on their toes so that they can get a salary they can live on.” 

She said that as well as encouraging municipalities, regional health authorities, and private companies to offer more full-time contracts, the government needed to reform parental leave to promote more equal childcare and supply child care outside office hours. 

She said that the poor working conditions and unsociable hours that were common in elderly care and other sectors, made many workers unwilling to work full time, as that would mean losing all their weekends and evenings. 

“The working conditions are so bad at pretty much everyone says, ‘I can’t bear to work full time with that sort of schedule’,” she said. 

Those who work as home-care workers, she said, often have their working day broken up into several small shifts, with unpaid free time in the middle.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

EXPLAINED: How do Sweden’s political parties want to reform work permits?

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats enacted the first stage of their work permit reform plan on June 1st, and have announced further plans to tighten up the work permit system. But where do Sweden's other political parties stand on labour migration?

EXPLAINED: How do Sweden's political parties want to reform work permits?

The Social Democrats

As Sweden’s ruling party, the left-wing Social Democrats’ position is the most clear. In their first work permit reforms, which came into effect on June 1st, they introduced a new talent visa for certain highly-educated workers, as well as a new rule stating that work permit applicants must have a signed work contract in order for their application to be accepted.

Aside from these reforms, they have also called for a reintroduction of arbetsmarknadsprövning – a system scrapped in 2008 where prospective labour migrants wanting to work in Sweden would only have their work permits approved if they were filling a position where there is a national shortage. If this were to be approved, work permits would be dependent on unions, employers, and authorities confirming that they lack workers in the profession in question.

Social Democrat migration minister Morgan Johansson, has previously stated that reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning is the “only way” to clean up the system.

In addition to this, the Social Democrats announced plans to propose raising the salary threshold for work permits from the current 13,000 kronor limit to around 27,000 kronor, although the final figure will be decided following negotiations in parliament.

The Moderates

The right-wing Moderates do not want to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning or the requirements suggested by the Social Democrats, but suggest instead that the should be a lower salary threshold should be raised to 27,540 kronor per month, which is 85 percent of the average Swedish salary (32,000 kronor per month). Seasonal workers such as berry pickers would be exempt from this requirement.

The Christian Democrats

The Christian Democrats want to see this lower limit raised to 35,000 kronor (they had previously stated that it should be 30,000 kronor), with exceptions for professions facing a shortage of staff, such as seasonal workers and certain healthcare staff.

In addition to this, both the Moderates and the Christian Democrats pushed for the new requirement which came in in June for workers to have to financially support any family members who accompany them to Sweden, as well as banning labour migration for personal assistants.

Their argument is that low-salaried jobs should be filled by unemployed people already in Sweden, rather than by bringing in workers from abroad. They also believe that it will make it harder for people to abuse the system.

The Sweden Democrats

The Sweden Democrats have previously proposed introducing a 35,000 kronor salary limit, alongside the Christian Democrats. This proposal suggested the reintroduction of arbetsmarknadsprövning for anyone earning under 35,000 kronor, with free labour migration over that figure.

The Centre Party

The Centre Party describes itself as “one of few parties in the Swedish parliament who protect the current system”, stating that it believes that individual companies know best when it comes to the kind of skills they need.

The party are against both arbetsmarknadsprövning and the introduction of a higher salary threshold, believing that introducing both policies would lead to a national skills shortage in Sweden.

The Liberals

The Liberals, like the Centre Party, are positive towards the current work permit system and are not in favour of increasing the salary threshold for work permit applicants. Similarly, they – like the Centre Party – do not want to stop labour migration for personal assistants.

The Liberals also believe that foreign students in Sweden should automatically be given a one-year residence permit after finishing their studies in order to look for work in the country.

The Green Party

The Greens have previously stated to Arbetet magazine that they “are not entirely against raising the 13,000 kronor salary threshold somewhat”, but that it must still be possible for those here on a work permit to, for example, work part-time alongside their studies.

They are not in favour of reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning, as they believe that employers should decide which skills they need rather than the state.

The Left Party

The Left Party is in favour of reintroducing arbetsmarknadsprövning as well as a requirement that immigrants coming to Sweden on a work permit must work full-time.

The Left Party does not want to introduce a requirement that workers must be able to support their families, and are against proposals to introduce a 35,000 kronor minimum salary for work permits.

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