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Working in Sweden
Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in Sweden
With its reputation for high salaries, communal work environment, and generous parental leave, working in Sweden is ideal for many expats looking to relocate. Recently, Sweden has seen such a high demand of foreigners wanting work permits, that they can afford to be selective. In 2018, nearly 20% of applicants were denied.
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Like many European countries with cushy salaries and high qualities of life, the Swedish job market is competitive. Many jobs require fluency in Swedish. Jobs that do not have this requirement are typically large international corporations based in Stockholm. However, even positions advertised as “English only” may give preference to those with at least a working knowledge of Swedish.
Expats who want to know how to find a job in Sweden would do well to look online or network. Sweden is renowned for its staunch gender and class equality, which extends to its workforce with an emphasis on first names and lack of formal titles.
In addition, Sweden places great emphasis on a healthy work-life balance with flexible work days and hours. Normal work hours are from 8:30 to 17:00, and you will notice most Swedes leaving the office right at 17:00. Working overtime is not commonplace in Swedish culture, nor is it looked upon favorably.
The average salary in Sweden is fairly high: 26,000 SEK per month (2,600 USD). However, keep in mind that this takes into account Sweden’s high cost of living. Expats can expect to spend nearly 30% of their income on rent alone.
Working as a self-employed worker is easy to do in Sweden, but foreigners will need to have already established their business and provide proof of viable income. Likewise, it is possible for all non-residents to register to obtain a Swedish social security number, but non-EU/EEA citizens will first need a Swedish residency card.
How to Get a Job in Sweden
Much like their housing, learning how to get a job in Sweden as a foreigner is tough, but ultimately rewarding. Standards are high and competition is stiff, but the work culture is extremely collaborative, hospitable, and salaries are high.
How to Apply for a Job in Sweden
When applying for a job in Sweden, it is imperative to standout. One of the best ways to do this is by studying Swedish. Many positions in the country require fluency in Swedish. Even the ones that do not may require at least basic skills. The exception to this is large multinational corporations, most of which are located in the capital Stockholm. If you are planning to move to one of the other Swedish cities, contact InterNations GO! to help set you up with Swedish classes.
If it is possible to find English-speaking jobs in Sweden, why do employers still prefer candidates who have some knowledge of Swedish or are willing to learn? This is because Swedish culture believes strongly in communal efforts, and employers will favor applicants who can easily converse and socialize with their colleagues.
Requirements for Working in Sweden
Because a Swedish company will have to defend why they hired an expat over a native Swede, those looking to move to Sweden should have at least a university degree. This degree will need to be verified by your country’s consulate in order to qualify for the work visa. A few years’ work experience is also helpful to have, but not a requirement.
Sweden also has a list of regulated professions that come with their own hiring requirements. For example, if you are a teacher and possess a foreign teaching certificate, you will need to have this document verified by the Swedish Embassy in your home country.
Tips for Getting a Job in Sweden
There are many online sites that can be used to find job opportunities for foreigners in Sweden. If a job posting is in Swedish, consider submitting your resume and cover letter in Swedish as well.
Top job search websites for positions in Sweden:
- Metro Jobb
- Facebook groups
Even if you are only applying to English-speaking jobs, it is a good idea to have a Swedish version of your resume as some companies have been known to ask for this even if Swedish is not required for the position. It is also a good idea to have a short, well-written introduction about yourself and your qualifications in Swedish.
Swedish CVs follow the traditional format common among most western countries: brief descriptions listing your educational and professional background, as well as any relevant honors, volunteer, or extracurricular activities. CVs should be no more than two pages long, or one-page front and back.
The only requirement that may surprise western expats is the inclusion of a professional headshot. This should be a passport-sized photo added to the top right corner of your resume. While the photo is not mandatory, excluding it may set you apart as a foreigner.
Swedish culture is very informal. Rarely do people use honorary or Mr./Miss titles when addressing one another. Because of this, your cover letter should be polite, but informal. Use the recipient’s first name and say “hello” rather than “dear.” The rest of the cover letter will follow the usual format of outlining why you are the best fit for the job to which you are applying. If you are new to Sweden or do not yet know Swedish, be sure to address this in the letter and communicate a willingness to learn as well as excitement for immersing yourself in the Swedish lifestyle.
Job Opportunities in Sweden for Foreigners
Every year Sweden releases a job shortages list. These jobs are typically in skilled worker positions such as engineering, teaching, and the IT industry. Expats interested in moving to Sweden should consult the list to see if their profession is listed. Jobs on this list are often so needed that expats do not even need proficient abilities in Swedish to apply.
The list is published in Swedish. Some of the professions on the 2019 list include:
- senior high school teacher
- civil, mechanical, and electrical engineers
- vocational teachers
- software and system developers
- dentists, doctors, and nurses
- university professors
Although Sweden promotes an informal culture, job interviews should be treated with utmost formality. While the people in the office where you are interviewing may be in jeans and t-shirts, expats arriving for an interview should dress in business attire: a dress shirt and pants for men, and a skirt-suit, nice dress, or pant suit for women. Being both too late or too early in Sweden is considered rude, so aim to arrive only five to ten minutes early. It is also a good idea to be well prepared with a copy of your CV, cover letter, and any extra documents that you think may be needed.
In Sweden, networking is often a more guaranteed way to land an interview (or a job) than the traditional route of submitting your CV and cover letter. According to a survey by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, informal networking is typically responsible for six out of ten Swedish job positions. Joining the expat networking group InterNations is one of the best ways to meet other foreigners working in Sweden.
Other Job Searching Tips
Some studies in Sweden have suggested that applicants with non-Swedish names (i.e. names that are clearly foreign) are not as likely to be passed up as those with Swedish names. While this may sound like a no-win situation, expats can combat this purported bias by clearly stating their intention to learn Swedish and embrace Swedish culture. One of the best ways to get a job in Sweden as a foreigner is by making it clear that you intend to embrace everything about the Swedish culture, lifestyle, and language.
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Minimum Wage and Average Salary
Sweden is one of a handful of countries in Europe that does not have a set minimum wage. However, do not let this dissuade you. The average salary in Sweden is around 46,000 SEK (4,700 USD) monthly. The minimum salary is around 6,400 SEK (660 USD) per month, and the maximum is 210,300 SEK (21,600 USD). Someone working an hourly service industry job can expect to make about 100–110 SEK (10 USD) per hour, which equals to an average annual salary of about 143,000 SEK (14,700 USD).
What is a Good Salary in Sweden?
Salaries in Sweden tend to be high because the cost of living is high, but they are not the highest in Europe. Expats moving to Sweden can expect to make enough to live comfortably, but you may not be able to save a huge amount.
A family of four, living in the city center of Stockholm, Sweden’s most expensive city, can comfortably live on a salary of about 23,000 SEK (2,400 USD) per month. For a single expat in the same city, a good salary would be 12,800 SEK (1,300 USD) monthly. In the second most expensive city, Gothenburg, a family of four should bring in 19,200 SEK (2,000 USD) and a single person will want about 10,420 SEK (1,100 USD).
The Most In-Demand Jobs and How Much They Pay
Programming and IT jobs are of particularly high demand in Sweden, and most positions do not require a high level of Swedish. As stated before, Sweden produces an annual report of job shortages. Expats wanting to move to Sweden should look at the list to see if they qualify for any of the positions as this will be one of the best ways to set yourself apart in the competitive job market.
Average monthly salaries of other popular jobs in Sweden:
The main requirement for taking up self-employment in Sweden is to acquire a residence permit. The specific permit is the “Swedish residence permit for self-employed persons.” Unlike other permits, the self-employment permit can take nearly a year to acquire, but then it is valid for two years. You can read more about the visa requirements for self-employment in our Visas and Work Permits section.
While the requirements to be self-employed are not as stringent as in other European countries, freelance expats should already have an established business with at least one client. You will need official invoices to produce, as well as a solid business plan.
How to be Self-Employed in Sweden
One of the first steps to being self-employed in Sweden is to register yourself as a private company. Most freelancers register as a sole trader (enskild firma) as this is one of the simplest private companies to register and it has the least amount of paperwork and overhead. Keep in mind that by registering as a sole trader, you are certifying that you will be solely responsible for any debts and legal action that the business may incur.
If you and a partner want to start your own business, you can enter into a trading partnership or limited partnership (handelsbolag or kommanditbolag). These need a minimum of two partners to create. In a trading partnership, each partner is responsible for the other’s debts and agreements. In a limited partnership, one partner has limited liability while the other has unlimited liability.
In addition to registering your business, you will also need a personnummer (translated into English as “personal number”). This number will register you with the Swedish tax authority and pay into the social security system. You can do all of this at the same place: the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket).
Finding Work as a Freelancer in Sweden
There are two ideal ways to find freelance work in Sweden: online and networking. Sweden is a highly technical society and nearly everything you need to know about Swedish society can be found online. Because of this, freelancers may want to scour job and networking sites in order to find work. One such website, set up by the Swedish government, even includes self-employment information that is specific to each region in Sweden.
Swedish culture believes strongly in working as a unified group. This mentality extends even to self-employed workers. Once you have established your business, look into contacting your local branch of the Swedish Jobs and Society Foundation (Nyföretagarcentrum). This foundation not only provides advice to new businesses, but they also host events that help freelancers connect with other companies.
Top Self-Employed Jobs in Sweden
Self-employed expats that specialize in IT or business may have the best luck finding work in Sweden.
Other areas where self-employed expats may find work include:
- fashion and design
- writing, editing, and proofreading
- game development
Self-Employed Benefits in Sweden
Even as a self-employed person, you are required to pay into Swedish social security. Luckily, this gives freelance workers some of the same benefits as regular employees, such as
- retirement pension;
- survivor’s pension;
- occupational injury insurance;
- parental insurance;
- unemployment insurance.
Some benefits will be handled differently than if you were to work for a Swedish company. For example, if you want to use sick leave, as a self-employed person you must report your illness within the first week of being sick in order to receive this benefit. Your compensation will then be evaluated based on your revenue.
To some expats, Sweden’s business culture may feel like a land of contradictions. A country unconcerned with hierarchy, Swedes address everyone from interns to CEOs by their first name. When greeting someone for the first time, do not be surprised when they immediately use your first name. You will be expected to do the same.
Work attire is also casual, but skews towards conservative. This means the Swedish workplace dress code typically shies away from business suits, promotes solid, neutral colors, and can involve sandals.
Although Swedish business culture is more relaxed than in some other European countries, punctuality is still strictly adhered to. To be late to a meeting is seen as wholly unprofessional and rude. Likewise, showing up too early is also seen as impolite. Instead, be sure to arrive no more than five to ten minutes early. Bring all materials with you as being unprepared for a meeting is viewed just a negatively as being tardy.
Swedish workers are known for their diligence and efficiency, but only in regard to exactly what is asked. This concept is referred to as lagom. This word does not have a direct English translation, but basically means “doing exactly what is needed and doing it well.” You will not see much clocked overtime in Sweden, nor will you see workers skimp on holiday or parental leave.
On the same wavelength as a disregard for formal titles, hierarchy within Swedish working culture is not strictly followed. This means that managers and CEOs are easily accessible by other employees and all workers are treated as an equal and unified company rather than at various levels of responsibility. Business decisions are typically based on consensus and compromise rather than seniority.
Social Security and Benefits
To work in Sweden you must have a social security number. All Swedish citizens born in Sweden are given a social security number at birth. Non-residents have to apply for the number through the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket).
What is a Social Security Number in Sweden?
A social security number in Sweden is called a personnummer. Directly translated, this means “Personal Number.” Your personnummer is a 12-digit number that registers you within the Swedish tax system. Once you have your personnummer you will use it everywhere: to get a job, sign up for a gym membership, changing your driving license, opening a bank account, etc.
All foreigners can get a personnummer in Sweden. Because EU/EEA citizens have the “right to residence,” they do not necessarily need a personnummer if their stay in the Nordic country is short-term. However, if you plan to remain in Sweden for a year or more, you will need to get a personnummer. In general, even if you are only there for half a year, having the number will make your life easier. Non-EU citizens will need to get a personnummer for stays longer than three months.
How to Get a Social Security Number in Sweden
Getting your personnummer is simple as long as you have all the required documents. EU/EEA and non-EU citizens are generally required to present the same documents with the exception of the Swedish residency permit. The Swedish residency permit is required of non-EU citizens. EU citizens need only to present their ID or passport.
To apply for a personnummer in Sweden, you and all accompanying family members will need to visit the Swedish Tax Agency in person. You will ask to register with the Swedish Population Register to report that you have moved to Sweden. You will need to bring the following documents:
- Swedish residence permit valid for at least one year (only required of non-EU citizens)
- birth certificates for you and all accompanying family members
- certificates verifying your civil status such as a marriage certificate or divorce document
- lease of your Swedish residence
Other requirements based on your citizenship may include an employment contract and proof of sufficient income to support yourself and your family while in Sweden. Children under 18 will need to have the consent of their legal guardian to move to Sweden. If one legal guardian is not in Sweden, they will need to provide written consent.
If any of the required documents are still being processed at the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket), you can ask to have them back or they can give you certified copies to present to the Swedish Tax Agency. If you are living with someone else and not at your own permanent residence in Sweden, you will need to still present the address and name of the homeowner.
Once you have submitted all of the required documents, you should receive your Swedish social security card within two to four weeks.
Social Security Benefits in Sweden
One benefit to having a Swedish social security number is that it is the main number you will need to use and memorize in Sweden. If you go to the bank or to get your driver’s license renewed, and cannot remember your passport or ID number, you need only to produce your personnummer in order to be looked up in the system.
Social security benefits cover a great deal in Sweden. For example, residents can receive financial help for:
- large families
- old age pension
- sick leave
- parental leave
- incapacity due to injury at work
Sweden is famous for its high taxes, a good portion of which is contributed to social security. Therefore, those in need of financial support from social security benefits will largely find ample help and resources. In addition to the above named benefits, Sweden also has general social assistance benefits, which help support those who are unable to maintain a sustainable livelihood for themselves.
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Maternity and Paternity Leave
Sweden has some of the most generous maternity and paternity benefits in the world. While most countries focus primarily on maternity leave, Sweden places emphasis on both parents. Parental leave has even given rise to the term “latte dads” referring to fathers on paternity leave who stay with their newborn child while the mother is at work.
In Sweden, it is difficult to talk about maternity leave versus paternity leave because both parents are required to take time off after the birth of a child. In total, parents are allotted 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave. Parents of twins are allowed an extra 180 days.
Out of the 480 days, it does not matter how long the maternity leave is, nor the paternity. Couples can split their combined parental leave in whatever way they seem fit. Couples that split the leave equally are entitled to equality benefits.
Maternity and Paternity Leave Benefits in Sweden
Besides the gracious amount of parental leave given to new parents, another benefit new parents receive is the ability to both be on leave for at least 30 days within the child’s first year. Fathers in particular are allowed ten days parental leave upon the immediate birth of their child. These ten days are in addition to the already allotted 480.
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