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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?
File photo of Sweden's parliament. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

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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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

KEY POINTS: How election pledges would affect foreigners in Sweden

Sweden's political parties have made their first election speeches and released the key issues for their campaigns. What have they said which could affect foreigners in Sweden?

KEY POINTS: How election pledges would affect foreigners in Sweden

Social Democrats

The Social Democrats’ policies on migration are lumped together under the headline “Migration, asylum and refugee politics”, meaning there is a clear focus on topics affecting refugees and asylum seekers, and fewer policies affecting labour migrants or work permit holders.

They say, for example, that there should be “faster routes to work through language, education and housing”, and “no areas should be extremely vulnerable”, as well as proposals to provide more support to municipalities for welcoming refugees and reform laws on housing for newly-arrived refugees to prevent segregation.

They do say under the “work” section of their website, that they “want to tighten up labour migration”, which probably refers to their proposals to reintroduce 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, and raising the salary threshold for work permits from 13,000 kronor to around 27,000 kronor.

Moderates

The Moderates’ manifesto is also lacking in policies specifically addressing immigration, although they do state that Sweden needs “tightened immigration for integration to succeed”.

On the migration policy section of their website, which is not highlighted as one of their key election issues, they propose introducing “a volume limit for reduced immigration”: a goal for how many immigrants Sweden can accept.

However, this does not cover all migrants – the Moderates specify later on that this goal is specifically for asylum-seekers in Sweden.

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.

They also want to scrap the opportunity for people to change track from asylum to labour migration.

The Moderates are not opposed to working with the Sweden Democrats.

Sweden Democrats

Migration is – perhaps unsurprisingly – a key focus area on the Sweden Democrats’ website. They state that “mass migration to Sweden from illegal immigrants, economic migrants and asylum seekers has changed Sweden for the worse and has caused many societal problems that we now need to fix”.

To do this, the Sweden Democrats want to stop all refugees from countries which “are not close to us” and tighten migration policy to the “strictest possible level according to EU law”. They also want the number of migrants who do not have the right to be in Sweden leaving to be higher than the number of migrants arriving in Sweden.

They state that new arrivals in Sweden should receive “clear society information explaining what they need to do to fit in”, as well as a requirement that they “qualify themselves for welfare through supporting themselves financially”.

On citizenship, they believe that prospective applicants must “be able to speak Swedish, have knowledge of our society and our culture, have lived here for a long time and have supported themselves financially”. They further go on to say that those who don’t fulfil these requirements should “be given help to return home”.

They also propose that all foreign criminals, as well as those who are “asocial, and others who damage our society”, should be deported.

On work permits, the Sweden Democrats want to reintroduce arbetsmarknadsprövning.

Centre Party

The Centre Party has positioned itself this election as the only right-wing or borgerlig party who refuses to work with the Sweden Democrats, making it implicitly more pro-immigrant. It describes the Sweden Democrats as “xenophobic party with authoritarian leaders as its role models”.

In leader Annie Lööf’s election speech on August 5th, she described Sweden as “a mosaic of people with different backgrounds, lives and dreams”.

She further said that Sweden must not “let a racist, populist party decide how Sweden will be run,” indirectly criticising the other right-wing parties by stating that the Sweden Democrats’ views should be “a stop light for every true liberal, not a springboard to power”.

She also stated that Centre Party members “never close their eyes to issues, show that a brighter future is possible” and “stand up for everything which has made Sweden one of the world’s best countries to live in: openness, tolerance, freedom and common sense”.

On work permits, which are not a key election issue for the Centre Party, it is a proponent of keeping the current system: no to labour market testing and no to raising the lower salary limit.

Left Party

The Left Party’s election manifesto covers a number of topics, including some which are of relevance to immigrants. It wants to lower rents and build more accessible housing, improve job security and reduce gig work, specifically stating that “workers with foreign backgrounds are overrepresented in insecure, low paid and stressful jobs”.

“None of us should have to deal with racism at work or be dependent on their employer in order to be able to stay in Sweden,” the Left Party says.

The Left Party is also critical of Sweden’s right-wing parties in its election pledge, stating that right-wing politics “is about attacking immigrants, the sick, unemployed and people with disabilities, and limiting our access to welfare.”

On work permits, they are in favour of reintroducing labour market testing and against raising the minimum salary threshold.

Christian Democrats

Leader Ebba Busch’s summer election speech didn’t cover migration, with Busch choosing to focus on healthcare, climate, and law and order instead.

The Christian Democrats are not opposed to working with the Sweden Democrats, and non-election policies which could affect immigrants include their position on work permits – they want to introduce a 35,000kr salary limit, stop kompetensutvisningar or “talent deportations”, where qualified immigrants are refused a work permit based on minor administrative errors, and they want to scrap the opportunity for people to change track from asylum to labour migration.

Liberals

Integration is a key issue for the Liberals on their website, with policy focuses including a so-called förortslyft or “suburb lift”, aimed at reducing the number of areas classed as “vulnerable” where police struggle to combat crime, so that no areas of Sweden fall into this category by 2030.

The Liberals say that many “new Swedes end up in crowded suburbs marked by crime and low school results,” and that “many have their freedom and opportunities limited as they lack jobs and lack language ability.”

Their goal for combatting the exclusion they see in Sweden is to make it “easier to get a job quickly and support yourself financially – even for those who don’t speak good Swedish or lack an education”.

To do this, they propose introducing “entry-jobs for the young and new arrivals with a slightly lower salary for the first job and simpler rules”.

They also aim to prevent and work to dismantle “parallel societies”, by combatting honour-related violence “through more knowledge, but also stricter penalties”, and introducing “a stop for new religious free schools as they prevent integration”.

In addition to this, the Liberals have proposed mandatory preschool for children who don’t speak good enough Swedish, in order to aid integration. They state that “studies show that early preschool benefits children whose mothers are low-educated and whose parents are born abroad”, going on to describe these children as “the most vulnerable children”.

In order to measure levels of Swedish, they propose that they (currently optional) two-and-a-half year speech assessment for toddlers is made obligatory for parents whose children do not attend preschool, so those who “have issues with language can be identified earlier”.

Green Party

The Green Party’s key election issues are (unsurprisingly) climate and the environment, equality and democracy and human rights.

Some of its equality policies could affect immigrants, including its proposal to encourage state-owned companies to introduce a right to full-time work, as well as its goal to increase election participation in areas where rates are low – areas with high immigrant populations often fall into this category.

Finally, it wants to protect human rights and democracy and protect the rights of minorities. It states that “everyone should be able to enjoy equal rights and opportunities no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender expression or age”.

On work permits, the Greens have said in the past that they are open to somewhat increasing the lower salary limit,  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.

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