Paid parental leave, subsidised health and childcare, fresh air and gender equality. Those are some of the selling points that Swedish companies have begun to push when trying to attract international talent. And many educated and skilled people choose to settle in Sweden precisely because it is a safe place with a generous welfare system. Ailbhe McNeela, who works for a music production company in Stockholm, is one of them. She says:
Obviously, the point of being able to stay home with my child – and my husband, too – is such a big factor in me wanting to stay here.”
McNeela moved to Sweden from Ireland four years ago and is now expecting her first child. She says many of her international friends have no personal ties to Sweden but have still chosen to settle here because they feel Sweden offers a lifestyle and a sense of security and political stability that they would not have back home.
They have stayed here for the work benefits and for the potential benefits. Just the option of being able to go on parental leave – things like that. They know that they will be treated better here than if they go back home.”
Equality, stability, and a high quality of life are some Sweden's unique pull factors, according to Jenny Chandler, who is the co-founder of a networking platform for international citizens in southern Sweden.
Surveys that explain or highlight why people decide to stay show that it's mainly to do with family life, quality of life, clean nature and things like that. And obviously the parental leave.”
For companies it is important not just to attract international employees but also to retain them, says Chandler. And over the past decade, she says, the concept of inpats has emerged and is slowly replacing the term expats. While expats take up short contracts abroad, inpats instead try to integrate or even settle in their new home countries.
Many come here on international company contracts and change to local contracts because they want to remain – and that’s when they go from being a traditional expat to an inpat.”
The IT sector is one that draws a lot of international talent to Sweden, and Stockholm has emerged as a hub for Europe's tech scene. Still, trained engineers and designers, for instance, can find work around the world so what is Sweden's draw?
According to Ola Sars, who runs a music start-up company that employs 65 people in Stockholm, not having to pay thousands of dollars every month for childcare is a major draw. That goes for some of his own employees, too, who include Americans, Brits and Israelis.
Then there’s the fact you can get out of the city in 10 minutes. It’s the work-life balance that everyone’s looking for.”
Sars adds that, beyond the practical aspects of Swedish society, many of his international employees also appreciate the philosophical underpinnings of the Swedish system, or “the Swedish model”.
Aspects of life and society that people from Sweden take for granted, says Sars, have now become the country's unique selling points – or USPs, in business speak.
For me, my parents and grandparents, it was just a natural evolution of the way we view society and the contract between state and individual and now it’s become the most commercial aspect of the whole equation so it’s kind of funny that we’re discussing that model as a capitalist tool to attract talent.”
And for Ailbhe McNeela, who moved to Stockholm from Dublin four years ago, settling in Sweden has meant that she can now have a child and a career – an option that is not open to her friends back home, she says.
I can leave my job for a year and then come back to it whereas my friends are leaving it later and later to have children because they will be forced to give up their careers. For me, it’s so nice not to have to worry about that.”