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2008 New rules for labor immigration, which has increased the opportunities for citizens outside the EU to come to Sweden to work.

Country of implementation
General short description of the innovation
In December 2008, new rules for labor immigration were introduced that allowed people from outside the EU / EFTA to come to Sweden to work if they are offered employment in an occupation where there is a temporary shortage of labor or are participating in an international exchange. / / In most cases, people have to apply for a work permission in their home country (exceptions are students and asylum seekers), but with the reform it is sufficient to have a job offer. Work permits under the new rules from 2008 are only granted if a person gets a job offer with compensation according to collective agreement or at the same level as the collective agreement in the sector. This is mainly a policy for those getting a job offer when still being in their home country, but the law also gives some possibilities to foreign students after completing their education in Sweden and to asylum seekers whose applications have not been accepted. For both those groups a job offer for at least six months is a necessary condition for getting a work permit. The new rules extended permission times for temporary work permit and opened for that a temporary work permit can lead to a permanent residence. Special rules were introduced for seasonal workers with work permits valid for shorter periods. A work permit is valid for up to two years and can then be renewed. After four years, one can apply for permanent residence for work. Employers who can give an employment offer for non-European employees have to specify working time and wage, and have this offer be approved by the migration office (Wadensj” et al 2012). / / Under the current system, students with a job offer and candidates brought for an interview and hired into shortage occupations may obtain a / work permit in Sweden without returning home first but they must first find a job. Rejected asylum seekers who worked while awaiting a decision may also change status. / / In early 2012, three years after the labor market reform took effect the Migration Board tightened the requirements for work permits in certain sectors, to prevent the exploitation of people. / / Administration: / The first stage of the administrative process begins when an employer notifies a vacancy to the PES. The PES?s in Sweden cooperate with employment in the EU / EEA and Switzerland via the network European Employment Services (EURES). When a job offer is advertised in the Swedish job-bank it will automatically become visible as a vacancy in the internet-based EURES portal. / The employer must also notify the PES about the intention to recruit a person who is not resident within the EU's area of cooperation ( by registrating the job offer on a form that must be signed by the employer and the employee organization and filed with the Public Employment Service). / When the form with the job offer has been received by the PES, a labor market test of the case takes place. This means that the PES considers whether there are job seekers in Sweden, the EU / EEA or Switzerland, which are qualified for the job. The PES also / checks that the conditions of employment are not inferior to the conditions established by the Swedish collective agreement or what is the practice in the profession or industry. /
Target group
Policy Field
  • employment
Type of Policy
  • public
Duration of the policy
2008 starting year
Scope of innovation
  • Scope: strucutral
  • Budgets: The Government Bill ( 2007/08:147) does no estimates the costs associated with the reform because these are mostly related to labor market demand. Inquiry sample calculation shows that 5,000 migrant workers and their families bring a net annual contribution to the public economy of around 2-2.5 billion SEK (2006 prices).
  • Spatial coverage: national
General description of (intended) objectives and strategies
Labour is needed to remedy the lack of competence, enhance industrial competitiveness and compensate for the negative population growth Swedish municipalities face. With the new rules, it became easier for people from outside the EU/ETFA to come to Sweden to work. The influx of migrant workers has increased from constituting 0.15% of the labor force each year (1999-2008) to 0.36% per year (2009-2011). The increase implies, however, mostly a higher number of seasonal work permits. The proportion of labor migrants in Sweden is still below average among OECD countries. / / The political discussion in Sweden differs from that in many other countries as the political worry in Sweden is mainly if Sweden will be able to recruit foreign workers in the future and not about introducing hinders for future labour immigration. There is one new political party, Sverigedemokraterna, which is anti-immigration and anti-immigrants and is mainly critical of refugee immigration (Wadensj” et al 2012). / / There is however a discussion about forms of labour immigration, mainly different forms of temporary migration. The conditions of seasonal workers are one. Seasonal workers are mainly employed in agriculture, a sector with low union density. There are several examples of unsatisfying work conditions and also on that the wages paid are lower than those agreed according to the information given to the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket). The working conditions of posted workers is another issue discussed and a third is the work conditions of those hired out by temporary employment agencies in another EU-country to employers in Sweden. Both the wages and the work conditions have been up for discussion. The trade unions are, in all the three cases mentioned, very critical of the behavior of the employers involved (Wadensj” et al 2012). /
Nature of the innovation-long-term perspective
Type of ideal-typical strategy for the innovation
  • liberalisation
Type of innovation
  • new policy, practice or measure
New outputs
  • wages (Risk for wage dumping. The Swedish Trade Union Confederation calls attention to the fact that labour migration often happens in the low-productivity sectors. The shortage of labor is usually explained by the domestic workforce unwillingness to carry out these works. The union however emphasis that the reservation wage (i.e. the minimum wage the workforce requires) is higher for Europeans than for third country nationals. With a constant supply of cheap labor there is pressure on employers to raise the attraction of jobs. Wages remain low or get lower, labour conditions do not improve. Thai berry pickers worked in V„rmland and V„sterbotten without getting their salary)
Intended target group
people from outside the EU / ETFA
Actors involved in policy-making/implementation and/or evaluation
  • agency or national social insurance body (PES )
  • employees (organised or individual) (different ones )
  • employers (organised or individual) (different ones )
Intended output
  • others (In 2011, a total of 27,803 work permits were given (2008 these number were 14 500). Of these, most people were from Thailand (2896), India (2492), China (1458) and Ukraine (826). Two of the most common professions among labor migrants was in 2011 computer scientists and engineers. Until November 2012, a total of 17 696 people immigrated during the year. )
  • regulation of the labour market (flexibility to cover shortages )
Did the innovation have any outcome related to job quantity?
The number of employers using the system more than doubled between 2008 and 2010. Most of these firms had not used the system previously. Many more recruiters are smaller firms, and many more firms bring a small number of labour migrants. However, outsideof universities, the public sector is not using the labour migration channel to recruit, and large businesses bringing in many foreign workers still dominate. As the OECD report points out: only about 50% of recruitments are for occupations on the status change shortage list, and these are disproportionately for short-term stays. An increasing number of labour migrants are going into elementary occupations. continues below
Clarification of outcomes in terms of impacting resilience and labour market inclusion
job quantity: As the OECD report points out: only about 50% of recruitments are for occupations on the status change shortage list, and these are disproportionately for short-term stays. An increasing number of labour migrants are going into elementary occupations. It would be good to use the / shortage list if not in the approval process itself, as a monitoring tool, e.g. to see why occupations not on the list are being recruited for, and the sectoral and collective bargaining coverage of non-shortage occupations. This should be cause for concern, since there is no obvious reason a priori why there should be an increase over time in recruitment for low-skilled non-shortage occupations. / / The OECD (2011) carried out an evaluation and stated that ?Despite the very open nature of the new migration system, there has been no massive increase in inflows, whether overall or of lesser-skilled migrants. This may be a tentative sign that this very open regime may be workable in the Swedish context, but it is not certain that it is transferable elsewhere, in particular because of the role of the unions. However, it should also be stressed that the reform was introduced during a recession and potential immigrants and employers may learn more about the weak points of the system over time, so some closer monitoring is advisable as the economy moves out of recession.
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