Stockholm Chamber of Commerce - The numbers confirm that Sweden fails to attract the highly educated

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The numbers confirm that Sweden fails to attract the highly educated

Skill shortage and recruitment difficulty is a growing concern for businesses. According to a study made by the ManPowerGroup, 36 percent of all employers in Sweden confirmed that they have difficulty in recruiting new workforce. Statistics from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, confirms that seven out of every ten business in Sweden pursues growth, but is hindered due to lack of workforce. The World Bank states that difficulty recruiting constitutes the greatest challenge for Swedish businesses. Lack of workforce is especially noteworthy in the Stockholm county, and is registering its highest level in a decade. This is revealed in the latest economic barometer from the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the Stockholm barometer.

The need for high-skilled workforce is critical and the trend is likely to continue. According to forecasts by Cedefop, low-skilled workforce will drop by 133,000 and medium-skilled workforce with 339,000 by the year of 2025, while high-skilled workforce will increase by 760,000.

Swedish universities are not educating enough, with sufficient knowledge, quickly enough. More importantly why Sweden needs to become a more attractive country for international talent.

The Stockholm Chamber has brought forth new statistics using OECD-data revealing that comparatively low international experts seeking to establish themselves in Sweden for the past five years.  

Other countries are considerably more successful in this regard. Countries such as Luxembourg, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland, and the United States all rank above Sweden in talent attraction in relation to the countries’ population. Given that Sweden considerably has, in relation to our population, many (both young and old) international and innovative businesses, the potential exists for Sweden to be at the top. However, we are left ranking at the eighth place in comparison with thirteen other comparably countries. This is not good enough. Politicians must take greater responsibility in strengthening Sweden as a destination for top talents.

During the last five years, 2.9 million highly educated persons has moved or found residence in any of the fourteen countries studied. Of the nearly 50,000 highly educated persons who has established themselves in Sweden, the majority is from Europe. Sweden is still doing relatively good with attracting talents from the Middle East although we are far behind countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zeeland in attracting highly educated from China and India.

If Sweden would have the same attractiveness as Canada, an additional 53,700 would have sought to establish themselves here. Had our global attraction been at the same level as Luxembourg, we would have attracted some 186,000 highly educated persons to Sweden.

We can draw inspiration from countries that have done much better. What unites countries such as Australia, Switzerland and New Zeeland, among other things, are lower taxes on work, a more liberalized labor market, and a well-functioning housing market. The high taxes are a factor that reduces Sweden’s attractiveness, in addition to the distressing housing-shortage in the capital region. These structural obstacles must be removed, and ambitious reforms are needed to strengthen our competitiveness. Furthermore, we must strengthen our brand because our reputation has, in recent times, been damaged due to ambiguous decisions to expel high-skilled workforce. Two long overdue and groundbreaking court decisions finally came from the Superior Court of Migration in December 2017, that will, in all probability, put an end to these expulsions. Now, more than ever, Sweden needs to aggressively position itself to do much better in the attraction of global talent:


Sweden should have an outspoken ambition to become a world leader in international talent attraction, and a ranking on a meager eighth place is not enough. It is time for the government to take the lack of competence seriously and undertake necessary measures it takes to strengthen Sweden as a talent destination.


Maria Rankka, CEO, Stockholm Chamber

This article was originally published in Dagens Nyheter