Sweden to hike work permit salary threshold in two stages

Sweden's government now plans to raise the minimum salary threshold for work permits in two stages, with a smaller rise planned for this year followed by a rise to close to the median salary in 2024 or later.

Sweden to hike work permit salary threshold in two stages
Employment minister Johan Pehrson and immigration minister Maria Malmer Stenergard announce changes to the inquiry into tougher rules for work permits on February 17th. Christine Olsson / TT / kod 10430

Erik Engstrand, press spokesperson for Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, said that because the law passed in November did not give the government the possibility to exempt certain professions from the salary threshold, it had decided to increase it from today’s 13,000 kronor in two stages. 

“First, the government has the possibility to set the salary rate in a first step — we haven’t decided the exact amount yet, but it won’t be as high as the median wage — and then the next step will be the median wage.” 

Sweden’s parliament at the end of November voted through a bill which empowered the government to raise the minimum salary for a work permit at the time of its choosing and to whatever level it chose. 

Malmer Stenergard said at the time that the government would announce the new threshold “as soon as possible”. 

In the Tidö Agreement between the three government parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats, the parties agreed that the new rate should be close to the median wage of some 33,200 kronor. 

But last Friday, the government instead announced that it was instructing an inquiry into work permits launched by the previous Social Democrat governments to instead propose a suitable salary threshold, extending its deadline until January 2024. 

The government also said that anyone renewing a work permit would be given a one-year transition period during which the previous rules, including presumably the 13,000 salary threshold, would apply.  

This appeared to kick the introduction of a higher salary threshold into 2024 at the earliest, but Engstrand said that the government still expected to introduce the first rise this year. 

“The problem with this first stage is that you can’t set up any exceptions from that, so it has to be lower than the median wage. It’s basically because of the way the previous government initiated this. They didn’t give the possibility to insert exceptions from certain work categories.” 

The first raised salary requirement is currently being drawn up by the Swedish government offices, and will then be sent out for consultation before being decided on during 2023. Engstrand said that this new salary level would certainly be higher than the current 13,000 kronor minimum salary level. 

The second salary raise would be set “with the Tidö Agreement as starting point” and “with reference to the median salary”, Engstrand added in an email. 

As part of this raise the government inquiry will also look into exemptions for some job categories, and also whether to make it impossible for some job categories to get work permits. 

While Engstrand blamed the way the previous Social Democrat government had framed the directive voted through in November for the lack of exemptions in the first step, there have also been reports that the government, and in particular the Liberal Party, had failed to agree on which professions should be exempted. 

Johan Pehrson, Sweden’s employment minister and the leader of the Liberal Party, told TT that business leaders and the heads of regional health authorities had told him that a minimum salary of 33,000 for work permits for non-EU citizens would lead to staff shortages. 

He said he was particularly worried about nursing assistants. 

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Politics in Sweden: Sexual abuse allegations, ‘big drama’ and Vikings

Here's the roundup of the week in Swedish politics, in the latest edition of The Local's Politics in Sweden column.

Politics in Sweden: Sexual abuse allegations, 'big drama' and Vikings

The perhaps biggest story in Swedish politics this week is European Parliament member Sara Skyttedal’s accusation that a party colleague sexually abused her nine years ago.

Skyttedal, for those who don’t know, is a high-profile and famously outspoken member of the right-wing Christian Democrat party and the former leader of its youth wing.

She recently reported party colleague Johan Ingerö to the police, a report which was dropped because the statute of limitations had expired on the alleged 2014 incident.

Ingerö is also a high-profile member of the party, a former head of press and policy analyst who was appointed party secretary (the person who is responsible for the day-to-day political work, second in rank only to the party leader) after the 2022 election.

He denies Skyttedal’s allegations. She claims she was woken up in a hotel room in Stockholm by his hand on her thigh, which she tried to remove several times. It was only when she shouted and physically pushed him off that he left her alone, she says.

Ingerö quit his post shortly after the story emerged, but party leader Ebba Busch told media that the reason for his departure was not the sexual abuse allegations.

Instead, she said the party needed someone with “different strengths” as party secretary, as the party makes the transition from a campaigning opposition party to a member of the government.

A separate recent conflict with Ingerö is what prompted Skyttedal to file the police report (according to Ingerö, she did so as revenge; according to Skyttedal, she did so because his aggression when discussing the issue reawakened memories and made her want to stand up for herself).

That conflict was sparked when Skyttedal in an interview with the ETC newspaper revealed that she had smoked cannabis during her time as an MEP to combat depression, in a country where such use is legal (which it isn’t in Sweden).

She then did a long interview with public broadcaster SVT, in which she said that she believed Sweden should decriminalise cannabis – a position that runs directly counter to the official position of the Christian Democrats, which resulted in party leader Busch saying Skyttedal would not be able to represent the party if she kept using cannabis.

A side effect is that cannabis is now top of the agenda in Swedish politics.

Most political parties are vehemently against changing Sweden’s “zero tolerance” approach to legalising cannabis, despite even the Public Health Agency calling for at least an inquiry into the ban. Here’s an article from The Local’s archive which explains the debate – and how likely it is that Sweden will ever legalise cannabis.

Is Sweden heading for another government crisis?

The words “government crisis” became almost synonymous with former Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s fragile-yet-relatively-long-lasting rule, which created and saw a series of coalition agreements fall while his minority government fended off more no-confidence votes than anyone else in Swedish history.

The Sweden Democrats’ finance spokesperson Oscar Sjöstedt last week hinted that current Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson could face a similar fate if the government and the far-right party do not agree on by how much to lower the so-called “reduction obligation”.

The reduction obligation mandates fuel suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their fuels. The current reduction obligation means that diesel emissions must be reduced by 30.5 percent and petrol by 7.8 percent. The Sweden Democrats want to cut that to zero.

Sjöstedt vowed that failure to agree would spark “big drama, I can tell you that”.

Why Vikings have sparked political turbulence in a small Swedish town

Speaking of government crises.

The local coalition in Hässleholm in southern Sweden is falling apart, after the council’s Sweden Democrat mayor got embroiled in a conflict involving an elderly care home, the alleged hiring of something close to hitmen and a Viking village.

A Viking association run by local businessman Oddvar Lönnerkrantz is accusing mayor Hanna Nilsson of trying to hire him as muscle to put pressure on a resident who was attempting to block the council’s purchase of a building for an elderly care home.

Lönnercrantz told the news site Frilagt that he understood it as Nilsson suggesting that they threaten or assault the man to get him to drop his appeal against the purchase.

Nilsson on the other hand denies those allegations and instead claims Lönnerkrantz has been trying to blackmail her.

The Moderates and the Christian Democrats have now pulled out of Hässleholm’s coalition government with the Sweden Democrats, calling on Nilsson to resign.

Politics in Sweden is a weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in Swedish politics. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive an email alert when the column is published. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.