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More skilled immigrants needed to meet skills shortage

IT labour immigration to Sweden on the rise

Published onsdag 9 maj 2012 kl 07.06
IT immigration growing
(4:48 min)
Muzammil, Israr and Awais, IT experts from Pakistan are set to start new jobs working in Swedish and English. Photo:Tom Sullivan/Radio Sweden

Unemployment may be high in Sweden, but this country still faces serious labour shortages in areas such as healthcare, engineering and IT.

And as the country’s population ages, the problem is set to get worse.  One solution is more immigration – but new recruits from overseas can face problems with the language barrier as well as bureaucratic hurdles.

Israr, Awais and Muzammil are IT experts from Pakistan. They recently graduated from post graduate programs at Sweden’s elite colleges – KTH and Chalmers.

They are part of a group trained in Swedish in just ten weeks by the Stockholm-based recruitment firm, Ants. And all three are about to start new jobs at Swedish IT firms.

Carl Johan Hamilton, the company’s director saw an opening for highly qualified programmers from overseas who had an extra edge – enough Swedish to get by in meetings with clients and colleagues.

Companies “say” they speak English

“So many companies say ‘we speak English and English is our working language’ but when you get down to the daily life of the company most of it is done in Swedish,” he told Radio Sweden.

“Then when you start recruiting people who don’t speak Swedish there’s a language barrier and a sort of cultural barrier. What we’re trying to do is bridge that barrier.”

According to estimates from the national IT industry association Sweden needs about 10,000 new IT workers each year for the next three years. Most IT companies say labor shortages are the biggest problem they face. And there is growing interest from foreign graduates – just in the first three months of this year more than a thousand foreign IT workers were granted work permits here – most of them from Asia.

But that still falls far short of the numbers that are needed.

Bureaucratic hurdles

Carl Johan Hamilton says there are still major obstacles to Sweden competing with countries like the UK and Canada when it comes to recruiting the worlds brightest graduates.

“A lot of people have felt that in contact with the Migration Board they’re sort of harassed, although of course there are good people there who really do their job,” he said.

“The system is a little big complicated, a little bit random. And when you’re finished studying you’re told to leave. So we are educating people so they can leave again.”

Since a labor immigration reform in Sweden in 2008, the country has opened up much more to foreign workers.

However there are still delays and problems for applicants despite a Migration Board fast-track program with almost 300 companies to process permits in just five days.

Muzammil Mubarik’s company is not part of the program which is expected to be rolled out to all firms later this year. He has been waiting two months for a work permit and for over a year for a work visa.

He says that now he can make himself understood in Swedish, dealing with the authorities is much easier and the job opportunities here are far greater. But he thinks more should be done to make it easier for those who have yet to learn the language.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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