Working in Sweden

Expats planning on working in Sweden should stake less in the quantity of their monthly salary, and more in the quality of their life ahead.

Sweden's exceptionally high taxes but extensive emphasis on welfare benefits means that even workers maintaining mid-level positions and moderate salaries can access a high standard of healthcare, reputable schools for their children, and retirement security for years to come.

With such obvious draws, it seems millions of expats would be marching on Sweden's entry points, but a highly-skilled labour force and a fairly insular economy prohibit easy entrance into the Swedish working world.

Like a large part of the European Union, Sweden was affected by the global financial crisis – but it was not paralysed by the turn of events. The country made rapid movements towards recovery, has largely remained stable and the economy is expected to grow in the coming years.

As can be expected from a country with universal social benefits, the workforce in Sweden is highly-skilled, with roughly a third of employees having some degree of tertiary education. Nearly 50 percent of the country's output and exports are accounted for by the engineering sector, followed closely by the telecommunications, pharmaceutical and automotive sectors. 

Sweden is also credited as an up-and-coming European creativity hub for business; another possible pull for purposeful expat workers looking to spread their wings wider.

Expats wanting to work in Sweden should have at least a basic knowledge of the language. Most jobs require fluency in Swedish, with the exception being large multinationals that use English as their corporate language, most of which are located in Stockholm.

It follows that these international companies are often an expat's most likely opportunity for employment. Many companies are more willing to hire expats who don’t speak Swedish if the potential employee shows an interest in learning and would at least be able to understand what is spoken about around the coffee machine. 

Expats who don't speak Swedish and who don't have any interest in becoming a member of the corporate world should consult the Swedish labour shortage list, a twice-annually published detail of the country's needs in the labour force. The chance of finding a job in Sweden is significantly better if an expat’s profession appears on the list. There is usually a lack of skilled workers in most areas of healthcare, trade work (such as bakers, concrete workers, transportation drivers etc.), most areas of engineering, teachers, and IT-related positions. Workers seeking a position in these and other areas with shortages should be able to apply for a job within Sweden rather than returning to their home country first. 

Sweden also publishes a regulatory list, a detailed account of professions which require some form of certification (such as doctors, lawyers and psychiatrists). If someone plans to work in Sweden and their profession appears on this list, they should check with the relevant listed regulatory agency to find out which certifications are needed, or whether or not the certification they already have is acceptable.

European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens do not need a work permit to work in Sweden, but citizens of all other countries do need a work permit to be rightfully employed in Sweden. Work permits can only be applied for with a formal written offer of employment from a Swedish company.