KEY POINTS: Sweden’s latest proposals to revamp the work permit system

KEY POINTS: Sweden's latest proposals to revamp the work permit system
A new inquiry proposes blacklisting dishonest employers of foreign workers. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT
A new Swedish inquiry has presented a series of proposals to crack down on dishonest employers who exploit work permit holders.

The inquiry, which was launched after several reports of exploitation of immigrant workers in Sweden, was handed over to Justice Minister Morgan Johansson this week.

It confirmed that although everything usually looks good on paper – which makes it harder for authorities to discover individual problems – many workers are ruthlessly exploited by dishonest employers, who often force them to pay some of their salary back to the employer.

In 2019, as many as 40 cases of exploitation of immigrant workers were investigated by police, of which two led to employers being prosecuted in court and only one led to a conviction.

Industries that require a lower level of education, such as the construction, cleaning, hotel and restaurant sectors, are among the worst offenders, report author Anita Linder told the TT newswire. She said the inquiry did not find any cases of work permit holders being exploited in, for example, the engineering or IT industries.

The inquiry proposes several measures, including introducing two new criminal offences.

One of these would include jail of up to two years for anyone who exploits a foreigner at work under “obviously unreasonable conditions” – even if the worker agrees to them, for example because they think they are acceptable or they don’t want to lose their permit.

The other one would ban “selling” a work permit to an employee by making them pay for the job offer. The employer could if found guilty be locked up for up to two years.

Particularly serious offences could in both cases lead to jail sentences of up to four years.

The inquiry also proposes blacklisting dishonest employers, by making it easier for the Migration Agency to check their criminal and tax records and refuse to grant work permits if the employer has previously exploited or committed crimes against immigrant workers.

If the employer provides housing, the inquiry proposes they must also ensure that the living conditions are adequate, to prevent situations where the employees are forced to pay rent to the employer and get no more than a mattress at the workplace to sleep on in return.

The proposals will now be sent out for consultation, which means that relevant agencies and authorities will give their feedback. During this process, the agencies can warn of any risks for unintended consequences or negative effects of the changes, and to give input on how feasible they would be to carry out. After any edits as a result, the next stage is to put the proposals to a parliamentary vote.

This was the second out of two reports into the Swedish work permit system. The last one was released in February 2021, with one of the proposals being to introduce a talent visa for highly qualified foreign workers. This is still being debated by decision-makers.

In fact, labour migration is expected to become a talking point ahead of Sweden’s general election in September next year, with several political parties calling for stricter rules – although they have different ideas as to how best to do this. This article by The Local gives you a rundown of what some of the main parties have been saying lately.

Member comments

  1. A talent visa sounds like a good idea – so long as the measure of talent isn’t simply about having a Ph.D. (which can be totally useless depending on the field of study), and as long as the talent visas only apply to fields where there is an identified shortage or workers. But it seems like a good idea as long as it is written properly.

  2. More importantly something that is always ignored in the proposal is a family of talent workers!

    You can not promote Sweden as a place to work for talent and at the end do not give permanent residency to his wife and just expecting someone to just ignore his family and just be a headless talent without emotion!

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