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Inside Sweden For Members

Inside Sweden: What are the Swedish reactions to the new work permit threshold?

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Inside Sweden: What are the Swedish reactions to the new work permit threshold?
The cleaning industry will be hit hard by Sweden's new work permit threshold. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren writes about the biggest stories of the week in our Inside Sweden newsletter.

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Hej,

Sweden’s new salary threshold for work permits came into force this week, and as you know it’s a topic we’ve covered extensively on The Local, both in the run-up to the change and afterwards.

We’re keen to keep covering the stories of how the new policy affects foreign residents in Sweden.

Now that the change has come into effect, we might soon start seeing its impact, as many work permit holders will get told they can no longer remain in the country when they apply for their next extension.

If your work permit application gets rejected due to the new salary threshold we’d be interested in hearing from you – or if you get a positive decision on your permit application despite the change.

Thanks to having a close relationship with our readers, we at The Local are in a better position – and, let’s be honest, perhaps sometimes more willing – to tell these stories than Swedish newspapers, but Swedish newspapers have also been writing about the new policy.

Even people not directly affected are reacting strongly to the higher threshold.

In Umeå, the trade union Kommunal is arguing that all its members – regardless of nationality – should have their minimum salaries raised to the new work permit threshold, which now stands at 27,360 kronor. This is because of the government’s argument that the threshold needed to be raised in order to make sure that work permit holders can support themselves and aren’t exploited.

Fair enough, Kommunal thought. If 27,360 kronor is what counts as a decent salary, then everyone should get a decent salary. The government has set the standard, it argued, and we’re just following their move. 

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Trade union organisations TCO and Saco have also criticised the new policy, but the complaints aren’t just coming from the trade union side of Swedish politics – even high-profile business organisations have raised concerns about it, including the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

Its deputy CEO, Karin Johansson, wrote in an opinion piece for Dagens Nyheter that it’s a high-risk experiment that will affect companies’ ability to recruit. She dismissed the government’s argument that jobs should go to unemployed people in Sweden, arguing instead that companies would hardly go through the complicated work permit process if they could easily recruit from within Sweden.

“It’s hard to shake the suspicion that the salary floor stems from a political strategy – a PR plan – rather than a programme for jobs and growth,” Johansson wrote in the opinion piece.

ISS, a facility management company which employs around 1,500 people in Stockholm, raised concern that four percent of their staff will be affected and may have to leave Sweden. The municipality of Skellefteå, one of Sweden’s up-and-coming tech boom cities, worries it may lose more than 200 of its council employees when their work permits run out.

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But not everyone is against the new threshold.

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO, which is the umbrella organisation for many blue collar unions, says that if given the choice it would prefer a system where work permits are regulated based on the needs of the labour market (known as labour market testing, where unions and employers identify sectors where there’s a labour shortage) – but it still believes that the new policy is better than nothing.

“Unregulated labour migration is completely devastating for workers and low earners in Sweden. It opens the gates of hell,” LO’s Torbjörn Johansson told the Arbetet magazine. “We can’t pay tax and unemployment insurance to people who are then outcompeted by people from other countries.”

Is there any chance that the policy will be revoked? It’s unlikely. The only parties that voted against it when it went through parliament were the Centre Party and the Left Party – hardly a majority.

Next year, a government inquiry is expected to suggest ways to increase the salary threshold even further – to Sweden’s median salary (currently 34,200 kronor). It’s possible that there will be exceptions for certain professions this time around, but it’s not yet clear how these will work.

We’ll keep writing about the news that we hear about any developments, and hope to hear from readers about the real-life impact these changes are having on work permit holders in Sweden.

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Thanks for reading and best wishes,

Emma Löfgren

Editor, The Local Sweden

Inside Sweden is our weekly newsletter for members that gives you news, analysis and, sometimes, takes you behind the scenes at The Local. It’s published each Saturday and members can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences.

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