Women and those with foreign-sounding names earn less in Sweden: report

Female job applicants both ask for and receive lower salaries than their male peers in Sweden, according to a new report which also showed candidates with foreign-sounding names were typically offered lower pay.

Women and those with foreign-sounding names earn less in Sweden: report
File photo of a meeting in Stockholm: Henrik Trygg/

The report, from recruiting agency Jurek, concluded that the discrepancies were creating an “unsustainable situation” in the Swedish labour market.

“Age, gender and name still have a big impact on today's labour market — perhaps it's no longer so striking when it comes to who gets a job, but it's clear when it comes to salary,” noted Shervin Razani, an Iranian-Swedish entrepreneur and Jurek's CEO. “Employers should make sure that they pay based on the work being done. Not the person doing it.”

According to the report, published on Tuesday and based on 1,875 interviews with job candidates during 2018, male native Swedes typically earn more than their female peers or those with non-Swedish names, even taking into account job role, level of education, and experience.

In the public sector, average salaries were lower, but this didn't mean the gender gap was eradicated, with the average salaries for the first quarter at 35,285 kronor/month for men and 31,846 for women.

Jurek cited an example of three applicants with the same level of education who applied for “similar and comparable” jobs. A man with a Swedish-sounding name ('Anders') both applied for and received a higher salary than a Swedish woman ('Eva') and a man with a foreign-sounding name ('Ahmed'). Though the report did not include data about candidates' nationality, its writers concluded that an applicant's name “matters a lot for the final salary”.

In the example cited, Anders asked for 65,000 kronor and received 50,000; Eva asked for 60,000 and received 45,000; and Ahmed asked for 37,000 kronor and received 35,000.

READ ALSO: 22 years until Swedish management teams are gender equal: report

Job applicants with typically Swedish names earned significantly more than others according to the data, with Jurek reporting that the best-paid name overall was Jonas. 

The gender gap also appeared to increase with the age of workers. 

Women's salaries were roughly in line with those of their male peers for job candidates in their 20s, but over the age of 30 the salary difference reached an average of 4,000 kronor per month, which doubled to 8,000 kronor after the age of 40. 

The report included suggestions on how these gaps can be closed, through efforts both on the side of the employer and job-seekers themselves.

One way applicants could improve their prospects is by asking for a specific salary; one in five of the applicants interviewed by Jurek requested a “flexible” salary or one “in line with market rates” rather than name a figure.

Instead, the recruiting agency advised candidates to be “better prepared and more engaged” with the recruitment process, by researching average salaries in order to strengthen their requests and to “aid all parties” involved in the hiring. 

Looking for your next role? Find English-language jobs in Sweden on The Local Jobs.

READ ALSO: Foreign graduates 'earn less than Swedes'

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Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”