Swedish businesses attack plan to hike work permit salary threshold

TT/The Local
TT/The Local - [email protected]
Swedish businesses attack plan to hike work permit salary threshold
Ann Öberg is chief executive of Almega, which represents companies in the service sector in Sweden. Photo: Almega

Sweden's service sector trade body has denounced government plans to bring in a 33,200 kronor salary threshold for work permits as "completely objectionable", warning that it was wishful thinking to expect the foreign workers lost to be replaced by the unemployed.


Almega, which represents businesses in IT, telecoms, engineering, architecture, media, private healthcare, train operations, and security, among other industries, said that its members would be severely affected by the plan to limit work permits to more highly paid employees, with about 10,000 people currently living in Sweden on a work permit forced to leave the country.    


"The proposal is motivated by the idea that these jobs should be done by unemployed people already in the country," the trade body's chief executive Ann Öberg and two colleagues wrote in an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

"But this is significantly easier said than done. Recruiting labour from a country outside the EU already takes a lot more time than to employ someone living in the country. Our member companies' first choice is always to recruit in Sweden." 

It would, they said, be "extremely unfortunate" if the government were to tighten up labour immigration without first reforming the tax and welfare system in Sweden to increase the incentives for people to work. 

The article marks the first significant sign that businesses in Sweden plan to push back against the government's plans. 

Almega is one of the most powerful member organisations in the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, so the fact that they have come out so strongly could push the government to temper its plans. 

"The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise has always had close connections to the right-wing parties, so this should be a headache for the government, for sure," Tove Hovemyr, from the Green-Liberal thinktank Fores, told The Local. 

In the article, Öberg called on the government first start with reforms to increase the incentives to work, then "make sure that today's unemployed truly can take the jobs that are on offer", then take action to stop unscrupulous employers abusing the system. 


Only then, should it consider tightening labour migration rules. 

"Sweden needs its talent immigrants. The system for labour migration can of course be improved. But by raising the salary threshold without first carrying out a careful inquiry together with unions and employers, the government risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater."


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