A guide to working in Sweden
As comedian and actor Alan Partridge once tweeted, "The Swedish don’t have a bad life when you think about it. They get up in the morning, have a bowl of Swede, hop into the Volvo, whack on a bit of ABBA, and zip over to Ikea."
This northern country offers more than pop music, flat-packed furniture, and robust cars, especially when it comes to working. With excellent healthcare and efficient public transport, there are plenty of reasons to work in Scandinavia's largest economy. In fact, it is one of the best countries for those interested in working abroad.
With progressive social policies, accessible employment, easy immigration, and publicly funded healthcare and education, Sweden is one of the most popular countries to live and work in.
English is spoken and is often the business language. This Scandinavian country offers a high standard of living, with subsidised public services and a generous holiday allowance. Here are just some of the reasons to take your career to Sweden.
Sweden's small, competitive economy relies on foreign trade. The country is recognised for its good working conditions and practices, and its job market is among the strongest in the world.
As the largest Nordic economy, Forbes magazine has named Sweden the best country for business in 2017. It’s also no secret that the tech and startup scene is one of the strongest in the world, with investment per capita in Stockholm second only to Silicon Valley.
Nestled between Norway and Finland, Sweden is one of the world's most innovative nations. The Swedes have invented the pacemaker, the three-point seatbelt and modern necessities such as Spotify and Skype.
Sweden has a long history of policies with the goal of getting equal numbers of men and women into the workforce in order to increase the country’s growth. At 72%, Sweden has achieved one of the highest female employment rates in the OECD (60%). Over the last decade, the unadjusted gender pay gap decreased in all five Nordic countries. In 2020, Sweden had the lowest pay gap between men and women at 10.5 per cent.
Office life in Sweden
Swedes are famous for their work-life balance. Workdays are usually 8 am or 9 am to 4 pm or 5 pm. The average working week is around 35 hours.
Equality and wellbeing in the workplace are important. Dress codes are casual, and most Swedish companies operate a flat hierarchy, meaning you'll be involved in decision-making and have regular contact with your manager.
Fika is so embedded in Swedish culture that it’s hard to translate into English. It’s ‘coffee and cake.’ Not only reserved for weekends. Fika is ingrained in Swedish work culture and takes place twice per day. Don’t be surprised if colleagues leave their desks around 10.30 am and 3 pm to partake in coffee, a sweet treat and a chat with colleagues away from their desks!
Who doesn’t enjoy paid time off? Sweden takes more time off than any other country in the world – 41 paid days annually. Working in Sweden, you are covered by Swedish holiday legislation that gives you various benefits, including days of holiday (semesterledighet), holiday pay (semesterlön), and holiday remuneration (semesterersättning).
The law gives you the right to 25 days of holiday and four consecutive weeks of holiday during June, July, and August. Also, you have the right to save some of your holiday days each year for a maximum of five years. This is popular in Sweden and you will find that your colleagues may have more holidays in one year than another.
A good deal for working parents
In 1974, Sweden was the first country in the world to replace gender-specific maternity leave with parental leave. Sweden can be an ideal country to start a family in or bring young children to. Legal residents within Sweden are entitled to 480 days of parental leave (68.5 weeks.) This is a flexible arrangement that benefits both caregivers. Parents are able to split paid leave equally – taking 240 days each – or transfer extra days to their partners to suit their needs.
As childcare is affordable, most parents in Sweden choose to go back to work after their parental leave. From the day they turn one, children in Sweden have the right to a place in nursery school. Dagis is how many people refer to 'daycare' in Sweden.
Education in Sweden
Compulsory school begins at age 6. Swedish education is good, and children attend school between the ages of six and 19. Preschool is known as förskoleklass, and children continue through the high school system. It is fully tax-financed and often includes extras such as lunches.
Sweden is home to 39 universities. Of the eight appearing in the QS World University Rankings 2023, two are inside the top 100 (KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Lund University). Higher education is free of charge for citizens of the EU/EEA and those with a permanent Swedish residence permit. Many courses at Swedish universities enjoy strong links with industry and a large number of degree programmes are offered in English.
The country is family-friendly. From pram ramps to playgrounds and dedicated park sections for children. Sweden has a strong literary culture geared toward children. Libraries offer children’s books in different languages and often activities such as painting, crafts, and music.
Sweden is one of Europe's more sparsely populated countries. By moving to Sweden, you have access to endless nature. 'Allemansrätten' (every man's right) means you have a right to roam in nature. That means you can hike, camp, fish, hunt, and forage no matter where you are. On the weekends you could explore Sweden's 30 national parks.
If you’re working in Stockholm, there is plenty to do. The Stockholm Archipelago is made up of 30 000 islands and is only 20 minutes from Stockholm. It’s the basis of beautiful nature, great local food, and exciting adventures.
Swedes love outdoor activities cross-country skiing, skating, sailing, horse riding, and cycling is made easy by cycle paths in all the main cities, towns, and villages.
In the winter months, you can cross the Arctic Circle and stay overnight in the world's original ice hotel, in Jukkasjärvi. Over the past 30 years, the hotel has become a hub of outdoor activities and unique dining experiences. On a cloudless night, you might even witness the Northern Lights.
Head north in the summer months and see the 'midnight sun' where the sun shines 24 hours a day. Many Swedes have small summer houses where they spend their weekends in summer. They are often basic but located in forests or by lakes. Make friends with Swedish colleagues and you might get a Midsommar invite to one!
In Sweden, ‘Midsommar’ is a special day (Friday around the 21st of June) But most working places and shops are closed and Swedes gather with family and friends. A maypole is raised and many people wear folk costumes to honour their regions while celebrating. Expect a huge traditional meal, games, and drinking songs to carry long into the night.
Fancy working in Sweden? Meraki Talent is currently supporting our top-tier client to appoint senior Transaction Services professionals to support the recent growth of a market-leading deals team in Stockholm. To find out more contact: (+44) 0131 297 2715 firstname.lastname@example.org