Working in Sweden
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Sweden was hit by the recession but since then it has rebuilt the growth of its economy, although it hasn't yet reached its previous strength. The labour market is healthy and there are high levels of competition for jobs. However, Sweden does have a labour shortage list and looks for international workers to fill these roles.
You'll need to have the right skills and qualifications for these jobs so try to build experience at home first. Some professions in Sweden are regulated meaning you'll need approval from a relevant authority before you're allowed to work in that role. There are processes in place to make this easier for EU citizens.
The best prospects are with international companies that have a base in the UK. And even though English is widely spoken, you will have difficulty finding a job if you can't speak and write in Swedish.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: services (IT, telecommunications, biotechnology), manufacturing (wood pulp and paper products), machinery and metal products (iron and steel), precision equipment (radio and telephone parts), processed foods and the automotive industry.
- Recent growth areas: consulting, biotechnology industry and pharmaceutical manufacturing, retail and green (environmental) exports.
- Shortage occupations: the labour shortage list in Sweden contains many occupations including those within business services, construction, education, engineering, health and medical care, IT, science and transportation. For a full list see Work in Sweden.
- Major companies: AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals), Volvo Group (vehicles), IKEA (furniture retailer), Ericsson (telecommunications), Electrolux (appliance manufacturer), H&M (clothing retail), Atlas Copco (industrial equipment), Scania (transport manufacturer), Skansa (construction), Tetra Pak (food packaging and processing).
What’s it like working in Sweden?
- Average working hours: the standard working week is 40 hours. Flexitime is common and overtime is possible up to 50 hours over one month.
- Holidays: 25 days' paid holiday per year is the legal minimum. There are 11 bank holidays.
- Tax rates: you'll be liable for tax if you are regarded as being resident in Sweden, have essential connections to Sweden or are present in Sweden for a period of more than 183 days in a tax year. Non-residents only pay tax on income from Swedish sources at a flat rate of 25%, for more information see Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket). Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
If you're an EU national you can travel to Sweden before securing a job and look for employment once in the country. You can also apply from your home country as many employers advertise online.
The main way to apply for a job is by using a CV and covering letter, which are in a similar format to those used in the UK. You may need to submit your application in Swedish and you should check job adverts carefully for details of this.
It isn't necessary to send copies of your certificates with your application unless it's specifically requested but it's a good idea to take them along to the interview. You can get help with applications from the Swedish Public Employment Service and see application and CV advice for more details on how to construct a good CV.
Job interviews will be similar to those in the UK. You may be interviewed by a panel and it's likely that a trade union representative will be present in public sector interviews. Trade unions are a well-established part of employment in Sweden and most workers belong to one. Conditions of employment are decided between employers and trade unions by collective agreement.
You may be required to attend an assessment centre and the number of times you'll be interviewed varies between employers. Make sure you prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview and be ready to speak about interests outside of the academic environment.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), UK qualifications are usually recognised by an employer. Some professions in Sweden are regulated which means certain standards of training and education need to be met. Regulated jobs include healthcare professions, authorised translators and interpreters, lawyers, teachers, estate agents and accountants. You'll need to have approval from a relevant authority to be able to work in one of these roles.
- Academic Search (Swedish/English)
- Career Builder (Swedish)
- Jobb Blocket (Swedish)
- Jobbsafari (Swedish)
- The Local (English)
Information about job vacancies, living and working conditions and labour markets in Sweden, as well as a CV-posting service for jobseekers is available at EURES – European Job Mobility Portal.
Private recruitment agencies operate in Sweden. Comprehensive listings are available from the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT). Search for employment agencies in Gula Sidorna (Swedish Yellow Pages) – in Swedish only, search ‘rekrytering’ for recruitment.
- Dagens Nyheter – the daily newspaper, has the largest number of job adverts.
- Svenska Dagbladet and Dagens Industri – for business-orientated vacancies.
The Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) is where most vacancies are registered. There are some 320 employment offices, which are the equivalent of jobcentres in the UK. In addition to details of vacancies, they provide careers advice and information. Check the English language web pages.
Speculative applications are quite common in Sweden and worth trying. Telephone first and, if possible and relevant, write in Swedish to the employer. Networking and using personal contacts are also popular ways of finding work. Create a profile on LinkedIn and network online.
Getting work experience
Erasmus+ is the EU programme for education, training, youth and sport for 2014-2020 and covers student exchange, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Both under and postgraduate students can study abroad for 3 to 12 months. Erasmus+ also provides opportunities for work experience for students to learn new skills or languages, as well as volunteering in different countries for between 2 weeks and 12 months.
Work placements and internships
- Undergraduates studying science, technology, applied arts and engineering disciplines can apply for placements which typically last for six to twelve weeks in the summer months through IAESTE (The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience).
- See Intern Abroad to search for interns and placements in Sweden.
- AIESEC (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) offers international traineeship exchanges, providing work experience opportunities from 6 weeks up to 18 months.
Casual work teaching English is rarely available, but opportunities may arise at:
- the British Institute (Sweden) – offers freelance work for native English speakers who have a certificate/diploma in English language teaching to adults (CELTA/DELTA);
- the Folkuniversitetet (Sweden) – operates various adult English language programmes in education centres across the country. A TEFL qualification is essential.
Seasonal work is limited – it is available nationally in hotels, bars and the agricultural and market areas. Childcare and au pair opportunities with local families are also available.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Do you need a visa?
If you are an EU national you have the right to live and work in Sweden without a visa or work permit and can start working as soon as you arrive in the country. You only need to contact the Swedish Migration Board if you can't support yourself financially through work or savings.
If you're planning on living in Sweden for over one year, you should be registered in the Swedish Population Register for tax purposes. This will supply you with an ID number that is used with employers, banks and other authorities in the country.
If you are not a UK national, contact the Swedish embassy in the country where you are currently residing about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you are living in the UK, go to the Swedish Embassy.
How do you become a permanent resident?
EU nationals who can support themselves have automatic right of residence in Sweden. Following this once you've lived there for five years without a lengthy break you can receive permanent right of residence. A permanent residence certificate can be applied for from the Swedish Migration Board at that point.
For nationals of other countries, different rules apply. Check with the Swedish Migration Board.
Living in Sweden
- Cost of living: the Swedish cost of living is generally high. Stockholm is typically more expensive than smaller towns.
- Internet domain: .se
- Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK).
- Health: health standards are high and there are no vaccination requirements. If you're on the Swedish Population Register you'll have an ID number which will give you access to the Swedish healthcare system. Otherwise you need to make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling to Sweden. This entitles you to state provided medical treatment. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Swedish nationals, so if a Swedish national has to pay a fee for treatment, you'll also have to pay a fee.
- Type of government: constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
- Laws and customs: Sweden is a tolerant, modern society that has made it a key priority to secure minority rights through legislation and in practice. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2009. There is a zero tolerance drug policy, including cannabis. There is widespread drug testing, and penalties range from rehabilitation treatment and fines to a maximum ten-year prison sentence. Smoking is banned in public places like restaurants, banks and shops.
- Emergency numbers: the European emergency number 112 can be used in Sweden for the fire service, police and ambulance. UK citizens can get help in an emergency from the British Embassy Sweden.
- People: the majority of the population is Swedish with Finnish and Sami minorities. First generation immigrants include Finns, Yugoslavs, Danes, Norwegians, Greeks and Turks.
- Major religion: Christianity