Working in Sweden

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Find out how to get a job and work in Sweden

If you get the chance to start working in Sweden as an expat, don’t hesitate! The country rewards you with job experience in one of Europe’s most beautiful countries. Competition can be fierce, though. We give you all the essential info on working in Sweden, from taxes to the expat job market.

Employment in Sweden

  • Sweden has a strong and growing economy.
  • A written offer of employment is vital for gaining a work permit.
  • The public sector is the largest employer in Sweden.
  • The job market is competitive but there are sectors in need of more workers and the government has made it easier for foreign nationals to work in them.
  • The business culture in Sweden could be very different to what you are used to with many coffee breaks and a tendency to have a lot of meetings before a decision is made.

Working in Sweden presents plenty of opportunities to expats from all around the world. While the high taxes may come as somewhat of a shock for many expats, the system permits brilliant healthcare services, a very good education system, and an excellent quality of life.

A Model Economy

Expats working in Sweden will benefit from high-tech capitalism mixed with a system of extensive welfare benefits. The country itself has a labor force of about 5 million employees. Despite the recession of 2008, Sweden has a strong economy with excellent internal and external communications. Sweden experienced a mild economic slowdown in 2012 and introduced various stimulus measures to boost growth and the availability of jobs. Sweden’s GDP has been forecast in 2015 to grow at a relatively rapid rate of between 2% and 2.8% until 2019. The Swedish economic model has also been applauded by international organizations such as the EU Commission and is expected to grow over the next few years as the government uses increased investment and taxation to improve the economy.

As an expatriate working in Sweden, you may be employed by a private company. Private companies account for the majority of the country’s economic output. The engineering sector is particularly strong and is responsible for approximately 50% of Sweden’s exports. The country’s main industries are in iron and steel, precision equipment, as well as motor vehicles. If you are interested in working in Sweden and have sufficient qualifications, you may be able to find work in these fields

The Work Permit

If you dream of working in Sweden, the first thing you need to do is to secure a work permit. This is necessary for all non-EU/EEA citizens to work legally in Sweden. Expats working in Sweden for more than three months must  apply for an additional work and residence permit.

Your best bet is to submit your application by using the online form on the Swedish Migration Board’s website. An alternative would be to direct your application to the nearest Swedish consulate or embassy before your move. Once you have turned in your application, you are not allowed to enter the country until your permit has been processed.

Written Offer of Employment

Before you can successfully apply for a work permit and begin working in Sweden, you require a written job offer from your Swedish employer. Only with a written job offer can you successfully apply for a Swedish work permit. The document should include information on your position within the company, on your salary and the duration of your work contract. Before you receive your written offer of employment, the responsible trade union has to approve the terms and conditions stipulated in your work contract.

EU/EEA-Citizens and Registration

EU/EEA-citizens do not need to obtain a residence permit or work permit prior to their move. They are in fact free to start working in Sweden and travel around the country immediately. However, they still have to contact the Swedish Migration Board and register their residency.

You have to register within three months of your arrival in person at one of the offices of the Swedish Migration Board or by submitting your paperwork online. Remember to include a certificate of employment in your documents. For more information on visa matters, written offers of employment and the registration process, please refer to our article on Moving to Sweden.

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Sweden: Business Sectors and Expat Jobs

Main Business Sectors

While privately owned firms are responsible for the highest economic output in Sweden, the public sector is the largest employer in the country, employing around 25% of the population. Municipal and county councils represent a large portion of the overall labor market and they commonly offer positions in the healthcare as well as the educational sector.

The clean-tech sector and automotive industry form another big employer group. Big vehicle manufacturers, like Volvo and Scania, call Sweden their home. Saab, a Swedish automobile company which petitioned for bankruptcy in 2011, was bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden and is back in production. Expats experienced in developing or manufacturing greener vehicles will feel right at home. After all, Sweden is one of the countries at the forefront of clean technologies and eco-friendly applications.

Other Sectors of Note in Sweden

Other important sectors in Sweden include the financial services sector as well as information and communications technology. Stockholm forms Sweden’s financial center with head offices of many multinational banks as well as hosting Scandinavia’s largest stock exchange. With companies like Sony Ericsson and Skype, Sweden also has a lot to offer in the field of information technology.

Sweden’s biotech sector is another major employer. The country is home to distinguished biotech clusters, six medical universities and other life science institutions. However, the fastest growing sector is the tourism industry as Sweden is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Once you have moved to Sweden, with its variety of cities and beautiful natural scenery to admire, you will understand why the tourism industry in the country is thriving.

Regulated Professions

Some professions require you to hold a special permit. This applies particularly to jobs within the healthcare sector but also to lawyers, electrical contractors and public school teachers. So before you go looking for a job as a nurse or dentist, make sure to contact the responsible authorities to receive approval of your license certification and professional status.

With this approval your future employer is assured that you received the necessary training and education to work in your field of occupation. In Sweden, approximately 40 professions, the majority of them within the healthcare sector, are regulated. The main requirements to gain approval are a sufficient educational background and prior work experience. The Swedish Council for Higher Education offers a list of all the regulated professions as well as the correct authority to contact for the necessary approval.

A Strong but Competitive Job Market

When you get ready for working in Sweden, you should know that, while the economy boasts many strong industrial sectors, the competition can be fierce. Some sectors are well staffed, and there are a high number of very well-educated Swedes who graduate each year and enter the job market.

Swedish employers generally look for qualifications and lots of experience in their prospective employees. You can improve your chances by gaining some more professional experience and by acquiring additional skills. Although English is widely spoken throughout Sweden, you will have a hard time finding a job if you are not proficient in Swedish.

Sweden: Job Search and Business Culture

The Job Search

EURES is the job database run by the EU Public Employment Service. It is also a valuable source that you should not hesitate to use during your job search. EURES also provides a targeted mobility scheme for EU, Norwegian and Icelandic nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 who use the service to find a job. This scheme is running until January 2017 and provides financial support for travelling to interviews and for getting settled once you first arrive.

Another way to find work in Sweden is by referring to Sweden’s labor shortage list, which is published twice a year. The list predicts Sweden’s future labor needs in relation to expected graduates and retirements. If your profession is on this list, it will increase your chances significantly. It also means that you are free to apply for a work and residence permit from within Sweden.

Taxation in Sweden

Income taxes are automatically deducted from your salary and every person, including your spouse, is taxed individually. You may already know that Swedish taxes are relatively high. However, they eventually pay off. Sweden uses tax money to finance the healthcare and education systems as well as public transportation. This allows residents access to free public day schools, free or at least rather affordable healthcare and other amenities. The Swedish Tax Agency is also very well trusted by Swedes and is accessible and customer friendly. Many things can be done electronically, even by app. When you start working in Sweden you will notice that Swedes have a positive attitude towards taxation. Skatt, the Swedish word for tax, also translates to treasure, representing the relatively unusual regard the Swedes hold towards taxation.

Key foreign personnel have the opportunity to opt for a 25% tax break. 75% of your salary will then be taxed according to Swedish law while the remaining 25% is tax-free for the first three years. You are recognized as a key foreign employee if you hold a vital position within your company, if you are an expert, engineer or scientist or are able to offer unique expertise in your field.

A Laidback Approach: Business Culture in Sweden

Sweden’s business environment is rather informal and casual. Those of you who prefer to wear jeans to work instead of fancy suits will feel right at home; it is even commonplace to wear sandals around the office. Flexible work hours and open, lively discussions during business meetings are common as well. However it is important to remember that Swedes try to avoid conflict and do not approve of too much emotion in business meetings. Although Sweden’s business culture seems quite relaxed, its labor force is one of the most productive in the world.

In Sweden, it is considered important to have a healthy balance between your work and your private life. Flexitime and work from home is rather common in Sweden, as are “Fika” breaks (breaks from work for coffee) which occur two or three times per day. However, you should still try to remain punctual, have respect for your co-workers and be humble. Team work and individual responsibility are extremely important.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a comprehensive range of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
13 December 2017
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