Free or Regulated Labor Immigration?

Sweden has regulated immigration. You can get a residence permit as a refugee, because you have close relatives living here, or for work. Recently more restrictive rules have led to fewer asylum applications. The rules for a work permit are also very restrictive.

In 2004 20,000 people received work permits, around 40 percent from outside the European Union. But that same year only 209 people received Permanent Residence Permits because of work. Labor immigration is a major future issue for western countries. Despite this, the issue has had a low-profile in the Swedish election campaign.

The lines are clear, however. The opposition Alliance and the Green Party want free labor immigration, the Social Democrats and Left parties are against. Where asylum is concerned, proposals vary widely.

The Social Democrats and Left are against labor immigration. They say this would erode the rights of workers and constrict wages. It would also place a great burden on the Swedish social insurance system. In their view, the Swedish Model would be at risk if there was free immigration.

The Green Party thinks Sweden needs a more generous approach to labor immigration.

The opposition Alliance believes this as well. The four alliance parties want to give people from outside the European Union the same rights as EU citizens to come here and look for work for three months. The condition is that they would have to support themselves. Those who find work would receive a residence permit for one year, which could be renewed. If a person loses their job, they would have three months to find a new one if they want to stay in Sweden. People who have worked for at least five years in Sweden would qualify for a Permanent Residence Permit. Asylum-seekers, whose applications have been rejected, but who have found work, would be treated as labor immigrants.

Regarding asylum, the parties have very different positions. Some examples:

  • The Liberals want to expand the right for relatives of those here to come to Sweden, but with a new requirement that the person already here be responsible for supporting the new arrival for a period.
  • The Center and Christian Democrats want to provide asylum-seekers with information about their rights and responsibilities.
  • The Greens want to give automatic residence permits to anyone who has waited for more than a year after applying for asylum.
  • The Left wants Sweden to leave the Schengen agreement.