'Cleaning industry not clean at all': Tax Agency

1:31 min

A new report from the Swedish Tax Agency sheds light on widespread tax evasion and abuse of vulnerable employees in the cleaning business.

Undocumented workers accept low, off-the-books wages so that they can get a cleaning job in Sweden, and the report found half of the 50 companies audited by the tax agency had broken the rules in some way.

Pia Bergman, who works at the tax agency investigating serious crimes, told Swedish Radio news that as the number of undocumented people in Sweden increases so too will opportunities for businesses here to exploit their situation.

This year alone 80,000 people have already sought asylum in Sweden. Some of that record number are not granted asylum. But even without permission to live in Sweden many choose to stay anyway, and cleaning services offer jobs frequently with working hours during the night when few people, if any, see them.

Speaking with Radio Sweden, Bergman said that undocumented workers were paid between SEK 11 and SEK 70 per hour, while a regular, documented cleaner could expect to take home at least SEK 125 per hour.

"We can see that the (tax) cheats are much worse nowadays," said Bergman. "When you have no right to be in a country, no right to work in a country, maybe you say 'yes' to things you wouldn't do if you had a more solid ground to stand on."

She continued, "What we see is that firms use those people in a bad way, because they can't say 'We have to have a real salary.'"

Speaking with Swedish Radio, Bengt Sandberg, the ombudsman for the 'Fastighetsanställdas union and chairman of the Fackligt Center för Papperslösa, estimated there were as many as 50,000 undocumented people in Sweden. He said that workers were treated worst in the cleaning services industry.

"It's halfway to hell. There are people getting 10, 20, or 40 kroner an hour. We haven't met anyone without documents who is not being exploited and disgustingly treated. There's nobody who has fair terms," said Sandberg.

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