At a time when global economic turmoil and job layoffs dominate headlines around the world, the Swedish government is relaxing its labor migration laws.
With Sweden and the rest of the world facing economic uncertainty and financial turmoil, it might seem like poor timing to open the door to even more labor migrants. But Tobias Billström, Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, sees things differently. “We are in the front line and are doing this at the right time. It feels good knowing that we have already gone through this [labor] debate whereas many other countries haven’t even started. The competition for labor will become even harder in the future, and when the economy improves again, we will be in a better position thanks to the new legislation.”
Many Swedish companies have experienced growing pains due to a lack of suitably skilled workers. Even now, as the economy slows down, Sweden is experiencing a skills shortage in fields such as engineering, IT, welding, technology — and health care, especially outside industrial centers.
As a rapidly aging workforce retires, the government is predicting more labor shortages by 2011.
The new legislation allows employers who are not able to meet their needs through recruitment in Sweden, or in other EU/European Economic Area countries and Switzerland, to recruit from elsewhere. This makes it easier for people to migrate from other parts of the world — and for an employer to find a suitable employee.
The new labor system is demand driven — unlike many other countries, Sweden does not rely on a points system or quotas. That means employers are free to hire whoever they feel is right for the job.
The legislative changes also mean that students from abroad no longer need to leave the country to apply for work permits, as was the case previously.
Billström says the old rules asked too much of students, who didn’t come back. “It was wrong to allow people to study here, pick up skills and then make them leave the country. The new rules have changed that.”
Apart from job opportunities, there are plenty of reasons why people should move to Sweden. Among these, Billström cites clean air, natural beauty, a low level of corruption (9.3)*, and an organized and open society.
Although one barrier to living in Sweden could be the language, English is widely spoken. And while picking up the language might be a good idea, it is not a necessity. There are no Swedish language requirements or tests to pass in order to immigrate to Sweden.
As Billström says: “Anyone who likes to work is welcome here.”
*Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand top Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (2008), scoring 9.3 out of a possible 10 (www.transparency.org).
Work permit requirements.
A person who wants to work in Sweden must have an offer of employment from an employer in Sweden. The following are also required to be granted a permit:
1. The employee must have a valid passport.
2. The employee must earn enough from employment to support him/herself.
3. The terms of employment must be equivalent to those provided by a Swedish collective agreement or to customary terms and conditions for the occupation or industry.
4. The relevant union must be given the opportunity to state an opinion on the terms of employment.
5. The job vacancy must have been advertised in Sweden and the EU.