Unions and employers in Sweden are close to striking a deal that would allow companies to offer lower wages to newly arrived immigrants and the long-term unemployed, Swedish Radio has learned.
The lower salaries paid out by the employers would be complemented by a state subsidy, which would go straight to the employee.
Since 2015, when Sweden received a record 160,000 asylum seekers, pressure has grown to integrate newly arrived immigrants into the labour market. The government believes employers and unions have been slow to negotiate solutions, and the opposition has presented proposals to create "introduction jobs" with lower wages than those offered for regular positions.
Swedish Radio News can now report that negotiations have taken place this autumn between the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Sweden’s largest business federation representing five sectors), Unionen (Sweden’s largest trade union on the private labour market), and five unions from within LO (the Swedish Trade Union Confederation).
The negotiations have resulted in the proposal to introduce two-year long "establishment jobs". However, the proposal must now be approved by the individual unions before a deal can be sealed.
According to Swedish Radio’s sources, the model will be tested during a five-year period.
The establishment jobs will be offered to:
- Newly arrived immigrants who have received residence permits within the past 36 months.
- Under-25s who have been out of work for at least six months.
- People above 25 who have been unemployed for at least one year.
The reimbursement for an establishment job will consist of a salary and a state subsidy. While the details are not yet clear, Swedish Radio has learned that the total reimbursement will correspond to the lowest-level wage in the relevant industry or sector, which in most cases is between SEK 13,000 and 16,000.
It is unclear what impact the establishment jobs could have. On the employers’ side, the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries has pushed for the new reforms and among the unions, IF Metall, Kommunal and Union have been the most enthusiastic.
Several LO-unions have misgivings, though, with concerns that this new form of employment may push out other workers and drive down wages.
Sweden’s minister for employment, Ylva Johansson, has said that the government is prepared to contribute once unions and employer organisations have struck a deal, primarily by ensuring that on-the-job training will be offered, including Swedish language classes.