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Sweden

Source: EURES The European Job Mobility Portal. For up-to-date information visit the Living and Working Conditions section about Sweden on the EURES Portal.

How to find a job

You are expected to be very proactive when you are job seeking in Sweden. The most common thing is to look for job vacancies on the internet.

There are many different websites and apps that publish job adverts. The Swedish Public Employment Service’s job bank ‘Platsbanken’ is one example. Vacancies throughout the country and in other countries are advertised there. It is possible to search by location and by profession. More often than not employers’ details are given, so it is possible to contact them directly. The advertisements are usually in Swedish, which means that most employers assume that those of you who apply have some knowledge of Swedish. You do not need to be registered as a job seeker to look for vacancies in Platsbanken. Vacant positions in Platsbanken are also copied across to the EURES portal.

General information and support can be provided by Customer Services at the Swedish Public Employment Service by telephone: +46 (0)771 416 416.

Another tip is to look for jobs on recruitment sites such as Monster, Blocket, Metro, Jobbsafari, etc.

Making your CV visible to employers is another way of looking for work. By logging into arbetsformedlingen.se and other recruitment sites, many employers who are looking for new employees can search for you. The EURES portal also offers the option of displaying your CV and thus allowing employers across Europe to search for you.

Another route towards a job is to contact private staffing and recruitment companies, such as those that specialise in the industry or profession in which you are looking for a job.

It is a good idea to use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn when looking for work.

Many jobs are never advertised externally. Taking the initiative to contact an employer for whom you would like to work is common and is usually seen in a positive light. Lists of companies in various sectors can be found in databases such as ‘Företagsfakta’ (company facts).

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How to apply for a job

In most cases, a personal letter with a CV attached is required when you are applying for a job. In rare cases, a telephone call or a personal visit will suffice. Many companies only advertise vacancies on their websites. Please read job adverts carefully to find out how to apply. It is also important to check the advert carefully to see what the requirements and preferences are. If you do not meet the requirements, it is seldom worthwhile applying. However, it is not always as important to have those qualifications described as preferred or recommended. The Swedish Public Employment Service regularly organises webinars, some in English, about how to apply for jobs, write a CV or be successful in a job interview. Current events are marketed on the Swedish Public Employment Service’s website.

Application

Think about adapting your application to the job you are applying for, and highlight what is important for that job. A written application consists of a personal letter and a CV (curriculum vitae). Certificates or testimonials should only be enclosed if requested in the advert. The same applies to photographs. On the Swedish Public Employment Service’s website there is a lot of good advice and examples (in Swedish only) of what and how to write. The personal letter should be very short, no more than one side of A4, and state clearly the job for which you are applying. It is important to describe the qualifications and personal attributes you have which make you the right person for the job in question. Leave all details and dates concerning previous experience for your CV.

A CV should be 1-2 pages long and contain:

  • personal details (name, address, telephone number, email address, date of birth, marital status and possibly nationality)
  • educational background (formal education, courses)
  • work experience (perhaps with a brief description of work duties and company/companies)
  • other attributes that may be of interest (positions of responsibility, driving licence, computer skills)
  • language skills
  • leisure interests
  • references (preferably from two different people, of which at least one should be a previous employer).

Information on education and work experience should contain dates and should be listed in reverse chronological order (i.e. the most recent information first). Large companies usually send an acknowledgement of the receipt of your application, often with advice on when you may expect to be contacted. If you do not hear for a while, you can call them yourself. Taking the initiative to call or write to an employer for whom you would like to work is common, and is usually seen in a positive light.

If you want to use a ready-made CV template, there is a European CV template called Europass. The Europass makes it easier for employers in other countries to understand your certificates and qualifications, because they are described in the same way in the template, regardless of country.

Job interview

Make sure you prepare yourself well for the interview. Try to find out as much as you can about the company. You will have to answer questions about your education, previous employment and leisure interests. It is also common to be asked to describe your strengths and weaknesses and how they may impact on the job for which you are applying, and about your family situation, leisure interests, etc. You will also be expected to ask questions of your own at the end of the interview. Think in advance about what questions you would like to ask. Take copies of your certificates and testimonials to the interview. As well as a personnel officer, or other employer representative, a union representative and/or future work colleague will often also take part in the interview. Sometimes you may be called to a second or even a third interview and/or asked to take tests of various kinds, depending on the type of job in question.

Swedish language

In most cases, you need to be able to read and understand Swedish in the workplace in Sweden. There are some exceptions, for example in occupations requiring specialist skills.

You can teach yourself Swedish online on the Svenska institutet website.www.learningswedish.se

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Finding accommodation

Housing costs can vary in Sweden, depending on the standard and geographical location. It is difficult to find housing in the larger cities, and prices are above average for the country.

In large cities there are more homes to buy and very few to rent, which has resulted in high rental costs. You can find housing primarily via the internet on sites such as blocket.se, for example. Depending on the kind of housing you choose (renting or buying), you can also contact local or regional property owners, both private and municipal. Certain municipalities have their own housing agencies. You can find the various bodies concerned on the Eniro website, under ‘Bostadsföretag’ (Housing Companies) and ‘Bostadsförmedling’ (Housing Agencies). If you wish to buy a home, there is the website Hemnet, for example, which advertises properties.

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Recognition of diplomas and qualifications

The importance of transparency and mutual recognition of diplomas as a crucial complement to the free movement of workers

The possibility of obtaining recognition of one’s qualifications and competences can play a vital role in the decision to take up work in another EU country. It is therefore necessary to develop a European system that will guarantee the mutual acceptance of professional competences in different Member States. Only such a system will ensure that a lack of recognition of professional qualifications will become an obstacle to workers’ mobility within the EU.

Main principles for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU

As a basic principle, any EU citizen should be able to freely practice their profession in any Member State. Unfortunately the practical implementation of this principle is often hindered by national requirements for access to certain professions in the host country.

For the purpose of overcoming these differences, the EU has set up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications. Within the terms of this system, a distinction is made between regulated professions (professions for which certain qualifications are legally required) and professions that are not legally regulated in the host Member State.

Steps towards a transparency of qualifications in Europe

The European Union has taken important steps towards the objective of achieving transparency of qualifications in Europe:

  • An increased co-operation in vocational education and training, with the intention to combine all instruments for transparency of certificates and diplomas, in one single, user-friendly tool. This includes, for example, the European CV or Europass Trainings.
  • The development of concrete actions in the field of recognition and quality in vocational education and training.

Going beyond the differences in education and training systems throughout the EU

Education and training systems in the EU Member States still show substantial differences. The last enlargements of the EU, with different educational traditions, have further increased this diversity. This calls for a need to set up common rules to guarantee recognition of competences.

In order to overcome this diversity of national qualification standards, educational methods and training structures, the European Commission has put forward a series of instruments, aimed at ensuring better transparency and recognition of qualifications both for academic and professional purposes.

  1. The European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework is a key priority for the European Commission in the process of recognition of professional competences. The main objective of the framework is to create links between the different national qualification systems and guarantee a smooth transfer and recognition of diplomas.

  1. The National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

A network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres was established in 1984 at the initiative of the European Commission. The NARICs provide advice on the academic recognition of periods of study abroad. Located in all EU Member States as well as in the countries of the European Economic Area, NARICs play a vital role the process of recognition of qualifications in the EU.

  1. The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

The European Credit Transfer System aims at facilitating the recognition of periods of study abroad. Introduced in 1989, it functions by describing an education programme and attaching credits to its components. It is a key complement to the highly acclaimed student mobility programme Erasmus.

  1. Europass

Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents

  • a CV (Curriculum Vitae),
  • a language passport,
  • certificate supplements,
  • diploma supplements, and
  • a Europass-Mobility document.

The Europass system makes skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in the different parts of Europe. In every country of the European Union and the European Economic Area, national Europass centres have been established as the primary contact points for people seeking for information about the Europass system.

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Kinds of employment

Employment

Swedish labour-law legislation may be regarded as a general framework. Details contained in the terms of employment are largely governed by collective agreements, which expand on and are based on the legislation. In many cases the conditions are better, but never worse, in collective agreements. The trade unions therefore have a very strong position in the workplace. They can provide further information and advice with regard to terms and conditions of employment within different sectors.

A position may be either indefinite (permanent) or for a certain period of time. In the latter case it may, for example, be a temporary replacement position or for a specific project. The type of position should be made clear in the letter of appointment.

A probation period of up to six months is permitted by law. If employment is not terminated within the probation period, the position becomes permanent.

Staffing agencies essentially have the same forms of employment as other employers, which means that you can be employed either indefinitely or for a fixed period.

There are no special provisions governing part-time employment. Part-time contracts are subject to the same rules as other types of employment contract and part-time employees usually have the same rights and obligations as other employees. A general effort is being made to encourage full-time positions.

Freelance workers may have to pay their own taxes and contributions.

Seasonal work

Seasonal work is a time-limited employment where nature's changes require you to be employed for a certain season. Seasonal work is common in sectors such as agriculture, forestry and within the tourism industry.

Seasonal work is a legal type of employment according to the Act (1982:80) on employment protection. By collective agreement, there may be deviations from this law and it occurs in the industries where seasonal work is common. In this case, what applies to wages, working hours, etc. is regulated in the collective agreement for each industry. In Sweden, negotiations between the social partners are a common solution for determining conditions in the labour market. More information can be found at the respective employer or employee organization. More information: www.lo.sewww.tco.sewww.saco.se

Citizens in a country outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland need a residence permit if they are to work as seasonal workers in Sweden. For work more than 90 days, both residence and work permits are needed. More information can be found on the Migration Board's website, https://www.migrationsverket.se/English/Private-individuals/Working-in-Sweden/Employed/Special-rules-for-certain-occupations-and-citizens-of-certain-countries/Seasonal-work.html 

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Employment contracts

An employment contract may be oral or in writing. It is recommended that you always ask the employer for written confirmation of employment. In the case of civil servants the employer is obliged to issue a written letter of appointment.

Under EU rules, an employer must inform the employee in writing of the terms of employment if the employee so requests. This must be done within a month of the first day of employment and include the following information:

  • the names and addresses of the employer and employee, the first day of employment and the name of the place of work;
  • the employee’s duties and job title;
  • the kind of employment (whether the position is temporary or permanent);
  • the period of notice or date when the contract ends;
  • the pay and payment procedures;
  • the hours of work and paid holidays;
  • any applicable collective agreement; and
  • conditions for working abroad if the employee is to work abroad for more than one month.

The employer must give the employee one month’s notice of any changes in the above terms.

Termination: a permanent employment relationship may only be terminated if there are reasonable grounds for dismissal or a shortage of work. In both cases you should seek union advice if you are affected. You need to be a member of a trade union organisation in order to obtain assistance from them. The period of notice may vary depending on length of service and age. This is governed by collective agreements. Temporary contracts of employment end automatically on the specified date without the employer having to give notice.

Employment subject to a probation period may be terminated upon completion of the agreed period without there being any particular grounds for dismissal. The probation period may also be terminated by either party before the agreed date providing 14 days’ notice is given. The central trade union organisations LO, TCO and SACO can provide more information.

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Working time

Standard working hours in Sweden are 40 hours per week. Flexitime is very common.

Overtime is limited to 48 hours over a four-week period, or 50 hours over a period of one month. Total overtime may not exceed 200 hours in a given 12-month period.

Employers have an obligation to ensure that working hours are properly observed. Sunday working is governed by collective agreements. Most of these agreements regard Saturdays and Sundays as rest days. However, there are many exceptions (e.g. for shift workers and employees in certain sectors, such as transport, retail, tourism and public services).

Parents with children below the age of eight years are entitled to reduce their working hours by up to 25%.

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Leave (annual leave, parental leave, etc.)

All employees are entitled to at least 25 days’ paid leave (i.e. five weeks’ holiday) per year. Under certain collective agreements employees may even be entitled to more days of paid leave. New employees who have not yet earned full holiday entitlement may be granted paid leave in advance.

Employees are entitled to at least four weeks’ continuous leave in the period from June to August, unless otherwise stipulated in collective agreements. Employees on certain kinds of leave, in particular sick leave and parental leave, continue to be entitled to paid holiday leave.

Temporary replacement staff, short-term employees and employees on probation who have worked for more than 60 hours for an employer are also entitled to holiday pay at 12% of their salary. Certain collective agreements provide entitlement to additional holiday allowances. 

Anyone who leaves their job without having used up their holiday entitlement is entitled to receive holiday pay in cash (at 12% of their salary).

Parents are always entitled to take parental leave but they must notify their employer of this no later than 2 months in advance. Pregnant women can begin their leave 60 days before the calculated due date. A parent or, in certain cases, another person is entitled to be on full leave from work up to and including when the child is 18 months old. If the parent or other person is claiming parental benefit, they are further entitled to parental leave beyond that period.

The other parent or person can take 10 days’ paid leave on the occasion of their child’s birth. 

A parent or, in certain cases, another person who needs to stay at home from work to look after a sick child is entitled to take leave and also receive temporary parental benefit. This allowance is available primarily until the child reaches the age of 12. However, in some special cases, this may also be paid for children above 12.

Other leave

It is possible within the framework of applicable collective agreements to take leave in connection with termination/notice, studying, starting your own business and family matters (death, moving home, etc.).

Public holidays

New Year’s Day, Epiphany (6 January), Good Friday, Easter Monday, 1 May, Ascension Day, Sweden’s National Day (6 June), Midsummer’s Day, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day.

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Remuneration

There is no statutory minimum wage, but a minimum wage has been agreed in many collective agreements. This is commonly called a starting wage or basic wage. The central trade union organisations LO, SAKO and TCO can provide more information.

Workers covered by collective agreements are often paid hourly rates that are governed by the collective agreement, but there are exceptions.

Pay levels are set individually throughout almost the entire labour market. This means that new employees are expected to negotiate their own starting salary. Those who are members of a trade union can obtain help and advice in connection with pay negotiations.

Pay negotiations take place annually at central and local level.

Employers have an obligation to deduct tax at source. This tax includes all social insurance contributions except unemployment insurance contributions. Employees are entitled to receive a written salary specification showing their salary and the deductions made. Employers must also provide an annual income statement (kontrolluppgift) to the employee and to the Swedish Tax Agency.

Salaries are usually paid into a bank account at the end of the month. 

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Ending employment

If an employer or employee wishes to terminate a contract of employment at the end of the probation period, they should give due notice. Unless otherwise agreed, the employment may be terminated within the probation period without the need to give any grounds for doing so.

Temporary contracts of employment end automatically on the specified date without the employer having to give notice.

Termination

A permanent employment relationship may only be terminated if there are reasonable grounds for dismissal or a shortage of work. In both cases you should seek union advice if you are affected. The period of notice may vary depending on length of service and age. This is governed by collective agreements.

If an employer wishes to terminate a permanent employment relationship, the employee concerned must be notified in writing. The letter of notice must contain information about how the employee may contest the termination of the contract. The letter of notice must either be handed to the employee in person or sent by registered mail.

An employer will not be considered to have grounds for dismissal if the employee can reasonably be transferred to another job. An employee who wishes to resign must give one month’s notice. The period of notice may be longer.

People aged 19-64 who cannot work full time because of illness, injury or disability can apply to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency for sickness benefit or activity compensation.

There is no fixed retirement age, but it is common to retire at the age of 65. Employees can choose to take a pension from the age of 61, but they have the right to work until they reach the age of 67. If both employer and employee agree, an employee may choose to carry on working even longer.

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The health system

Everybody resident in Sweden is covered by the national health insurance system. The authorities responsible for public healthcare are the county councils/regions and the municipalities. The Swedish Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) administers state benefits relating to dental care.

The health insurance system covers most of the costs of visits to doctors, hospitalisation and laboratory fees. Maternity care and paediatric care are free of charge.

Medical care and hospitalisation are covered by a patient fee. The size of this fee is set by county councils and may vary depending on the medical service being provided and from county to county. EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, as well as citizens of third countries in some cases, who work in Sweden are entitled to dental care and healthcare in Sweden on the same terms as those who are resident in Sweden.

Doctors

If you need to see a doctor or district nurse, you should contact your ‘vårdcentral’ (primary healthcare centre).

The patient fee is between SEK 100 and SEK 400, although the maximum payable per year is SEK 1 150. You can also make an appointment with a private practitioner. Please note that not all private practitioners have healthcare provision agreements with county councils or regions, which means that a visit to these doctors is considerably more expensive than a visit to a doctor who has signed up to a provision scheme.

Hospitals

If you are seriously ill, or become ill suddenly, you can go to the hospital’s emergency department. Call Sjukvårdsupplysningen (the Health Information service) on 1177 first, and ask for advice. A referral to a specialist or a hospital is made by a doctor working in primary healthcare or in the accident and emergency department. The patient fee when you are admitted to hospital is SEK 100 per day at most.

Medicines

Medicines are purchased at pharmacies. When you buy prescription medicines you pay a discounted price. Maximum cost protection means that you pay no more than SEK 2 300 a year. Certain non-prescription medicines are now also sold by shops other than pharmacies. Prescription medicines for children under the age of 18 years are free of charge.

Dentists

Dental care is free for children and young people up to and including the year in which they reach the age of 21, after which a fee is payable for all or some of their dental care. There is maximum cost protection.

Public dental care is available at ‘Folktandvården’ (the Public Dental Service). It is, however, just as common for adults to visit a private dentist who is affiliated to the public system.

Emergencies

In emergencies, ring 112. The same number is used throughout the country and is valid for the ambulance, fire and police services, and for poison information and dentists on call.

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Income and taxation

The average salary for all occupations in 2018 was SEK 34 600/month before tax. Wages are generally higher in the private sector compared to the public sector. This varies widely depending on the job. Senior managers in the field of banking, finance and insurance received the highest average salary, of SEK 132 100/month before tax. The lowest paid profession was care staff, with an average salary of SEK 20 200 SEK/month before tax.

Women earn on average 89% of what men earn, i.e. there is a difference in earnings of 11%. Part of this difference is due to women and men working in different occupations, working in different parts of the labour market or having different qualifications and working hours.

The Swedish tax system consists of a number of direct and indirect taxes and charges. The most important direct taxes are state- and municipal income tax. The most important indirect taxes are VAT and excise duties on certain products, such as alcohol and tobacco. Almost all goods and services are subject to VAT, and the rate of VAT is normally 25% of the price. VAT rates of 12% and 6% also exist. For example, 12% is charged on food and 6% on passenger transport.

Income below SEK 19 670 (2019) per year is non-taxable.

The majority of the income tax paid by natural persons goes to the municipalities. If your taxable income exceeds SEK 490 700 (2019), you pay national income tax at 20% on the amount above this. You pay national income tax at 25% on income that exceeds SEK 689 300 (2019) per year.

Municipal income tax is proportional and is between 29% and 34%. Most people only pay municipal tax, which includes county council tax. Social insurance contributions are paid by the employer via employers’ contributions. There are therefore no additional deductions from wages.

Income tax is also paid on unemployment benefits, sick pay, pensions and similar sources of income.

Both natural and legal persons are obliged to file an income tax return with ‘Skatteverket’ each year, usually around 2 May.

Your income minus basic deductions and deductions for various costs makes up your taxable income.

If you live abroad and reside in Sweden for less than 6 months, you must pay a special income tax, called SINK, which is 25%. SINK is a definitive withholding tax on employment income, and you therefore do not need to submit income tax returns for such income. Contact ‘Skatteverket’ (Swedish Tax Agency) for more details.

There is more information on taxes in Sweden at www.skatteverket.se

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The education system

Swedish schooling consists of 10 years’ compulsory primary schooling, which starts at the age of 6 with the preschool class. This is followed by an optional three years at upper secondary school. Most pupils from primary and lower secondary school carry on to upper secondary school. There are university-preparation programmes and vocational programmes.

Compulsory primary and lower secondary schools and upper secondary schools are usually operated by municipalities, but are subject to national curricula and government supervision. There is also a growing number of schools that are funded from the public purse as well.

International schools

There is a number of international schools that offer tuition in languages other than Swedish. International schools are run in accordance with the curriculum of another country or an international curriculum. There are also schools that teach through the medium of English but follow the Swedish curriculum. For more information, please contact ‘Skolverket’ (the Swedish National Agency for Education).

Higher education

Applicants to university or college are normally required to have completed upper secondary school education in Sweden or abroad. Certain prior knowledge in one or more subject areas is almost always required.

Most universities and colleges in Sweden are operated by the State. There are universities and colleges in more than twenty locations around the country. It costs nothing for EU/EEA citizens and citizens of Switzerland to study at Swedish universities and colleges, apart from a small registration fee. You must buy or borrow your own course literature. Many students receive state student grants and take out state student loans in order to support themselves during their studies. This student financial support is administered by the Swedish Board for Study Support (CSN).

Adult education

Adult education is arranged by Sweden’s municipalities. Through adult education you can study Swedish for immigrants (SFI), courses equivalent to lower secondary and upper secondary school, study for upper secondary examinations, and complete qualifications that entitle you to further study. It is also possible to undertake vocational training. The teaching is free of charge, but a fee for teaching materials may be payable.

‘Folkhögskolor’ (folk high schools)

A specifically Scandinavian form of adult education is the ‘folkhögskola’ (folk high school), which is often run as a boarding school. The schools are owned by county councils or by non-profit organisations such as trade unions, churches and temperance societies. They set their own curricula and can offer a wide range of theoretical courses, artistic subjects, international affairs and environmental protection.

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Cultural and social life

Sweden is a secular society, but many public holidays and traditions have Christian roots, even if the origins have been more or less forgotten. Other traditions are linked to the seasons.

Leisure activities in the countryside are important for most Swedes, and ‘allemansrätten’ (the right of public access) entitles you to access forests and land. ‘Naturvårdsverket’ (the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency) has more information about what you may and may not do on other people’s land.

Popular sports include football, handball, ice hockey, gymnastics, riding, tennis, floorball, skiing and golf.

All Swedish municipalities have public libraries with trained librarians. It costs nothing to borrow books, films or music.

Workplaces in Sweden generally have relatively flat organisations, with an emphasis on all employees taking their own responsibility and initiative. Workplaces usually try to have as few decision-making levels as possible. In the vast majority of cases, people address each other as ‘du’ (the familiar form of ‘you’) and use first names, and this also has an influence on management/staff relations.

The drive to achieve equality between the genders is important in Swedish society. In many areas Sweden has made a lot of progress in these efforts.

The Swedish Institute has comprehensive information on Swedish culture and society on Sweden’s official website sweden.se, which is available in English, Arabic, Russian and Chinese. The authority also publishes printed material about Sweden.

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