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The Swedish immigration debate continues to drop the ball

After all, foreign workers are human too

The original article was published in Aftonbladet, 5 March 2021. Link to the Swedish version.

Watching the debate on labor migration in Sweden as kompetensutvisning survivors has been both cathartic, and boring. Were all our suspicions true?

· Yes, this is has largely been about cheap, low-skilled labor from abroad,

· Yes, kompetensutvisning is a political entity for trade and a tarrif,

· Yes, at the core this is a left/right debate on free trade,

· No, the ‘commodity’ in this debate foreign workers have not yet been recognized, engaged, or dignified as real people.

Foto: Getty

It’s understandable that in 2008 borgerligheten (och ett par fack) wanted to advocate for liberalizing labor migration. The Swedish economy expanded globally and was outgrowing its workforce. Before the pandemic, Sweden had the largest kompetensbrist in a decade. At the same time, there have long been reports of the abuse abuse exploitation of particularly low-skilled labor migration. In Sweden, low-skilled labor is historically highly regulated, highly organized and highly paid.

For us, we’ve learned the Swedish Model and labor law the hard way. We have never committed a crime, but have been kompetensutvisad five times between us. And still, it continues, albeit less. Right now we are supporting four cases of skilled labor facing kompetensutvisning. Three of them are families. Nearly all of them have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the stress. The government, and the world, now know how much pain this creates. The recent investigation from the government appropriately acknowledges that kompetensutvisningar has“fått stora konsekvenser.”

Yet, as kompetensutvisning continues to damage Sweden’s ability to attract and retain skilled labor, more stories of serious abuse in low-skilled labor continue as well. Non-serious employers, the people who have ruined this for everyone, remain largely unpunished. For us, as the pendulum swings from one extreme to another in Sweden’s migrationsdebatten, we just try to hold on. It keeps us guessing:

  • Was the 2008 law designed to destroy the Swedish Model? And welfare?

  • Maybe the labor movement has refused to pursue this until they change the law?

  • Maybe Migrationsverket isn’t the bad guy?

  • Why are they treating us as criminals, instead of non-serious employers?

As one courageous Swede, Greta Thunberg often says, “I don’t know why.”

Modraterna’s recent proposal for skärpta regulations specifically for low-skilled labor migration has yielded strong critique from the free-market crowd, even though they propose fairly similar policies for the Nordics, EU and even US.

The proposal, now supported by V, and KD doesn’t say if foreign workers already here earning less than the proposed 31,000kr would be deported, which would be a disaster. It does mention bidragreform, likely another heated, philosophical debate without us, about the welfare state money we pay into.

What’s missing from both Moderaterna’s and the government’s proposals is the main issue for international professionals, after ‘work permit status,’ in our new survey: getting the permanent residency we have worked and paid for. PUTvisning has already started, and there will be more. This, is an actual welfare chauvinism issue happening right now that can be fixed.

As a non-partisan, digital labor, movement we see this proposal as a much-needed step towards political maturity on migration, and away from migration chauvinism. At least for labor migration, it’s a potential turning point for integration. Asylum is obviously a separate, humanitarian issue.

We hope it’s the beginning of an actual plan to include international professionals in the Swedish Model, as Real People – instead of using us to change it. We hope it brings some type of advocacy for workers in Sweden, regardless of their nationality.

But, we’ve learned not to hope too much. So, we will also continue giving international professionals a voice of their own, including on the investigation’s proposals. We will also keep innovating new ways to curate worker’s rights and obligations according to Swedish law for international professionals, and include them the Swedish Model. From our perspective inkludering is the key to a sustainable, talent attraction and retention, pa riktig. We welcome foreign workers, asylum seekers, Swedes with mixed roots, and ‘Real Swedes.’ We are all professionals with skills that can compete on an international scale. Join us securely and confidentially at

Real People is a non-partisan, digital, labor movement dedicated to including international professionals in the Swedish Model, and giving them a voice.

Matt Kriteman, CEO co-founder, Real People (Kompetensutvisning Survivor), Editor, The Dearly Deported



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