Sweden Democrat leader: 'We don't want unions to control work permits'

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Sweden Democrat leader: 'We don't want unions to control work permits'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson (SD) delivers his summer speech at Sölvesborg in Bleknge. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The leader of the populist Sweden Democrats party has told The Local that he is opposed to Social Democrat plans to bring back 'labour market testing' for work permits, preferring to instead raise the salary threshold.


In an interview after holding his summer speech in his home town of Sölvesborg, Jimmie Åkesson told The Local that while his party believed Sweden's system of work permits should be made stricter, he was now opposed to bringing back the old system of arbetsmarknadsprövning, or Labour Market Testing, scrapped by the Moderate-led Alliance government in 2008, where labour unions worked together with government and employers to identify jobs and sectors where there is a labour shortage.


"We don't want the unions to have the power to decide who gets permits to come to Sweden," Åkesson said. "But we want society, in some way, [to] have to see if it's needed or not, and exactly how we're going to do that I cannot say at this time."  

He said he believed "a better solution" than a return of union involvement would be something similar to proposals made by the Christian Democrat and Moderate parties, who want to increase the minimum salary that those seeking work permits are being offered. 

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

"If you can increase that [threshold] a lot, let's say to 30,000 crowns or something, then you will get those highly educated immigrants but those who are not educated, they will not come, so I think that's a better solution." 

After a new law tightening up the work permit system came into force in June, Sweden's Social Democrats proposed a further reform which would bring back the old Labour Market Testing system. The Moderates have instead proposed a minimum salary threshold set at 85 percent of the average Swedish salary, while the Christian Democrats want to set the threshold at 35,000 kronor a month. 

In an interview with The Local in July, Sweden's immigration minister Anders Ygeman said that the involvement of unions would not slow down international recruitment for businesses. 

"We want to have a swift and easy system for those who are in sectors where we really need people," he said. "And people who has been exploited in this system or, or in other sectors, will have a very tough time to come to Sweden.”

Åkesson's views on work permits seem to contradict what is on the Sweden Democrats' website, where it still states that the party wants "to reinstate government Labour Market Testing, and a demand for qualifications, salary, and necessity". 

On the website, the party is extremely negative towards labour migration, stating that "economic migrants have changed Sweden for the worse". 

The work permit system, it continues, has "in practice stopped working", with "corruption, cheating, and human smuggling" common.


When challenged by The Local on his party's negative rhetoric on foreign workers, many of whom bring important skills for Sweden, Åkesson stressed that he welcomed high-skilled labour migration. 

"We have a lot of migrants that contribute to Swedish society and the Swedish economy. They work and they pay taxes, and that's fine," he said.

"They are not the problem. The problem is more those 700,000 immigrants that cannot support themselves and that are in need of social benefits and that kind of support. That costs a lot of money," he said. "That is the problem, not the good immigrants that are working and contribute to society." 


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