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Inside Sweden: Widespread criticism as work permit threshold set to be hiked again

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Inside Sweden: Widespread criticism as work permit threshold set to be hiked again
Some critics warned mid-skilled professions like teachers could be hit by a higher salary requirement for work permit holders. 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,

There was an onslaught of strong criticism as soon as the government inquiry into raising Sweden's work permit threshold to the median salary presented its report to Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard this week.

Almost half of all current work permit holders risk losing their right to stay and work in Sweden, predicted Patrick Joyce, chief economist at Almega, the country's leading umbrella organisation for employers in the service sector.

"In practice it puts an end to labour migration for most occupations except the most qualified. Young engineers and technicians risk being blocked," he said, accusing the tighter rules for international talent of missing the target. 

The proposed rules would, if they come into force as predicted in the summer of 2025, raise the minimum salary required for a work permit to Sweden's median salary, which currently stands at 34,200 kronor a month. 

They come just a few months after Sweden raised the minimum salary threshold to 80 percent of the median, up from the previous 13,000 kronor, which many of The Local's readers told us upended their entire future.

Thankfully, this time around there would at least be a one-year respite for current permit holders. For applications to extend an already existing work permit, the new requirement would come into force in two years' time.

There would also be some exceptions for certain professions. They would be decided by the government on the Migration Agency's advice (including with advice from the Public Employment Service and industry actors) and would focus on jobs where Sweden is crying out for international talent, for example in Norrland where the green transition has led to high demand for labour.

Students and researchers who have finished their studies in Sweden and are now looking for work should also be exempted from the median salary requirement, as their first jobs are likely to be lower paid than the median.

Doctors, nurses and dentists who have a degree from their home country but are working in a low-paid profession as part of obtaining their Swedish certification to practise medicine would also be exempted.

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Although they do provide some relief, critics of the new proposal are not happy with the exemptions. Almega's Joyce criticises that they will be drawn up by the government and public authorities rather than businesses and employers.

Karin Johansson, deputy CEO of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, told the TT news agency that she feared the exceptions could be "arbitrary" instead of targeting those professions where there actually is a need for labour.

Her colleague Amelie Berg, a labour market expert, slammed the proposal as "unreasonable" and something that "doesn't belong in the Swedish labour market", where the equivalent of minimum wages are traditionally set through negotiations between employers and unions without state involvement.

Benjamin Dousa, CEO of business organisation Företagarna and someone whose right-wing credentials are hard to question (as former CEO of liberal think tank Timbro, seen as firmly on the Swedish right, and former Moderate politician), warned that the median salary requirement could hit many industries hard, such as English-speaking teachers and mechanics. 

"Of course you should stop cheating and rogue employers. But is a Canadian teacher or an Albanian truck mechanic who pays taxes and takes care of himself a problem?" he wrote on social media app X, formerly Twitter.

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So what happens now? Unlike the previous raising of the salary requirement, the implementation of which sneaked up on all of us, there is now a clear timeline for when this could be introduced, and time to have opinions.

The next step now is for the government to analyse the report, then draw up its own draft bill. Relevant organisations and authorities will then be invited to comment on them before a final bill is put to parliament and voted on.

The bill is expected to pass, but not without critics putting up a fight.

"It's not too late. I hope politicians will come to their senses and put the proposal where it belongs: in the rubbish bin," said Amelie Berg.

In other news

It’s no secret that mortgages in Sweden have become more expensive over the last year or so, as interest rates have risen following high inflation. But did you know there’s a way you can lower your monthly mortgage cost?

Every week, The Local invites readers to submit their pictures to our photo competition. This week’s winner is Jarda Zaoral, who snapped this picture on a 200-kilometre ice skating trip from Örebro to Stockholm.

Our reporter Richard Orange got a call from the police this week, asking us to warn readers of The Local that several English-speaking foreigners in Sweden have already fallen victim to a recent spate of scam calls.

One of our most popular articles this week was Becky Waterton's explanation of the Swedish modal verb vill. A common mistake for English speakers just starting out in their Swedish journey is translating the English word "will" into Swedish as vill. Why is this wrong, and what word should you use instead?

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Why do many foreigners find dating in Sweden so tough, and what's the best approach to take? Hear matchmaker Lemarc Thomas give his views on how to crack the Swedish dating scene.

A lot of people who move to Sweden do so mid-career. A UK reader asked us if it was possible to transfer an overseas occupation pension to Sweden. You can but it's not always worth it.

The weak krona is making ski holidays in Sweden cheaper for foreign holidayers, but for people living in Sweden they are pricier than ever.

Have a good weekend,

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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