The tourism and travel industries have been particularly hard hit, with thousands of lay-offs across Sweden, while many small- and medium-sized businesses — typically more vulnerable to sudden changes in the economy — are also struggling. And it's generally those who are already in precarious positions, such as contractors, freelancers, and the self-employed, who are first to feel the effects.
For Nicolas, a chef from Argentina, a planned move to Sweden for work is now not possible.
He was supposed to be moving to Falkenberg to work for the summer, on a working holiday visa. His contract — which included accommodation — has now been cancelled, leaving him unable to travel to Sweden.
“It's not their fault, I can understand them of course,” he said. “But I'm stuck in Argentina now, in Buenos Aires. I'm losing time and money, at home with my parents, doing nothing.”
Muhammed, who runs a taxi company and moved to Sweden four years ago, was one of many small business owners who were severely affected. He said his firm had lost around 50 percent of its usual business by mid-March, and he expected this to fall over.
“Airport trips are cancelled and people are afraid and they want to stay at home,” he commented.
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Industries closely linked to travel were among the first to feel the effects of the coronavirus, and now bookings for the peak summer season may be under threat. Airlines SAS, Norwegian and BRA have temporarily laid off many of their staff, as have major hotel and ferry companies. Some will be able to maintain all or most of their salary, but not everyone.
“I work at a hotel as an extra housekeeper, which means my schedule is based 100 percent on how many guests are staying at our hotel at any time,” said Ashley, an American who works in Östergötland.
“I was told that due to the severe drop-off in bookings, there is simply no demand for extra work. They are concerned that they may have to reduce hours even for full-time employees. The biggest impact hit when large group events were cancelled, leading to large group booking cancellations.
“Meanwhile, my husband's employer is starting to review which personnel are considered critical to be at the office and which ones can work remotely. Employees were urged to bring their computers home with them over the weekend as they may be asked not to return to the office on Monday.”
Hotel rooms across the country are empty. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
Even other businesses are losing customers and having to adapt as many people are asked to self-isolate or choose to practice social distancing, and others may be less willing to spend due to uncertainty over their own finances.
Cathy from Uppsala said that the concerns and extra safety precautions have impacted the revenue coming into the co-working space she works at, Stockholm Impact Hub.
“We have tried to do the right thing by reaching out to event organisers and recommending that they cancel any events with more than 20 people, even though we’ve taken a huge hit financially. We are now developing new event production services so organizations can create engaging virtual events. I feel like the government is failing to take decisive action,” she commented.
The company has also chosen to offer free business development advice, investment readiness coaching, and 30 percent off Impact Hub's global membership for startups working on solutions that aim to help improve the coronavirus situation for those who are affected.
“Although I try to stay calm and have avoided stocking up on supplies like some other people, inside I’m petrified.”
The Swedish government has already pushed through some measures to help companies through the difficulty. These included support for employers shortening work hours while the employee receives more than 90 percent of their salary, sick pay subsidised by the state, and the ability to defer social security contributions, preliminary tax on salaries and value-added tax in order to maintain liquidity.
However, it's not yet clear if more will be done to support self-employed people, beyond these tax deferrals, or those who have been laid off by their employer due to the virus.
Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with us. Although we weren't able to include all the submissions, we read each of them and we are truly sympathetic to the challenges Sweden's international residents are facing right now. If there's anything you'd like to ask or tell us about our coronavirus coverage or how the outbreak has affected you, please feel free to get in touch.
If you're a small business owner or self-employed worker who is affected, let us know how people can support you (for example through online orders or services, or using home delivery) and we may be able to add it to this article.