Erik Engstrand, press spokesperson for Migration Minister Maria Malmer Stenergard, said that because the law passed in November did not give the government the possibility to exempt certain professions from the salary threshold, it had decided to increase it from today’s 13,000 kronor in two stages.
“First, the government has the possibility to set the salary rate in a first step — we haven’t decided the exact amount yet, but it won’t be as high as the median wage — and then the next step will be the median wage.”
Sweden’s parliament at the end of November voted through a bill which empowered the government to raise the minimum salary for a work permit at the time of its choosing and to whatever level it chose.
Malmer Stenergard said at the time that the government would announce the new threshold “as soon as possible”.
In the Tidö Agreement between the three government parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats, the parties agreed that the new rate should be close to the median wage of some 33,200 kronor.
But last Friday, the government instead announced that it was instructing an inquiry into work permits launched by the previous Social Democrat governments to instead propose a suitable salary threshold, extending its deadline until January 2024.
The government also said that anyone renewing a work permit would be given a one-year transition period during which the previous rules, including presumably the 13,000 salary threshold, would apply.
This appeared to kick the introduction of a higher salary threshold into 2024 at the earliest, but Engstrand said that the government still expected to introduce the first rise this year.
“The problem with this first stage is that you can’t set up any exceptions from that, so it has to be lower than the median wage. It’s basically because of the way the previous government initiated this. They didn’t give the possibility to insert exceptions from certain work categories.”
The first raised salary requirement is currently being drawn up by the Swedish government offices, and will then be sent out for consultation before being decided on during 2023. Engstrand said that this new salary level would certainly be higher than the current 13,000 kronor minimum salary level.
The second salary raise would be set “with the Tidö Agreement as starting point” and “with reference to the median salary”, Engstrand added in an email.
As part of this raise the government inquiry will also look into exemptions for some job categories, and also whether to make it impossible for some job categories to get work permits.
While Engstrand blamed the way the previous Social Democrat government had framed the directive voted through in November for the lack of exemptions in the first step, there have also been reports that the government, and in particular the Liberal Party, had failed to agree on which professions should be exempted.
Johan Pehrson, Sweden’s employment minister and the leader of the Liberal Party, told TT that business leaders and the heads of regional health authorities had told him that a minimum salary of 33,000 for work permits for non-EU citizens would lead to staff shortages.
He said he was particularly worried about nursing assistants.