Laid off Astra Zeneca employees found new work

2:58 min

Three years ago, over one thousand researchers were laid off at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in Södertälje, south of Stockholm. Now, most of them have have found new work. But it has not been a painless transition.

Anna-Carin Sköld was one of the researchers at AstraZeneca laid off three years ago. One of the responsibilities she had there was making sure that medicine was safe for pregnant women. But since the layoffs, she has had to make big changes in her life.

"There's a lot of uncertainty leaving what you're familiar with. It has been very demanding to study and learn new things when you have a family and have to move," Sköld told Swedish Radio News.

After being laid off she got an education in clinical pharmacology and has now relocated to Eksjö, a small town in Småland in the south of Sweden, where she works with the elderly and medicine for the county council.

Job security advisors TRR is a non-profit organization that works with companies to help transition laid off employees into new jobs. They worked with about 1,000 of AstraZeneca's laid off employees, of whom about 85 percent have found new jobs and about nine percent of them have started their own company.

"This is even better than we expected," TRR CEO Calle Leinar told Swedish Radio News.

According to Leinar, the collaboration between the company, the municipality and the government helped most in finding a new job. But in comparison to the average, more have been forced to take a salary cut, because they have moved from the private to the public sector.

Astra Zeneca is TRR's second largest project ever and has been more successful than the largest, the Saab bankruptcy. After the Södertälje case though there was worry that there would be a brain drain, with many pharmaceutical researchers moving abroad, but that did not happen.

"There were 43 people who chose to leave Sweden to find work elsewhere. We thought that figure would be much higher," Leinar said, because "if anyone could find a job abroad it would be these researchers but they chose to stay in Sweden."

However, Leinar is concerned for the future of science research in Sweden because he said that there are so few research-intensive life science companies in Sweden and he doesn't think that students will choose to study this subject either.

For Leinar, the fact that 94 percent found work again three years after being laid off by AstraZeneca shows that this sort of assistance with transitions work after large layoffs, but he thinks that it must become easier for people to be retrained and reeducated.