Sweden announce cross-party agreed measures to cushion economic hit

epa08299867 Matilda Ernkrans (L), Minister for Higher Education and Research; Anna Ekstrom (2-L), Minister of Education; Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (2-R) and Johan Carlson (R), executive officer for the Swedish Health Authority, participate in a a press conference at Rosenbad in Stockholm, Sweden, 17 March 2020. Sweden's goverment adviced upper secondary schools and universitys to close down and provide distance learning, to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. EPA-EFE/Fredrik Sandberg/TT SWEDEN OUT

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The Swedish government recognising how the ongoing virus outbreak is having a major impact on the Swedish economy and many people have become, or risk becoming, unemployed announced a number of measures aimed to alleviate the impact on the labour market, a crisis package for jobs and transition is now being presented.

“Even with the powerful measures taken to date to counter the economic consequences of the virus outbreak, unemployment is expected to rise sharply,” the Finance Ministry said. “This necessitates an adjustment to unemployment insurance policy.”

Reuters  reports that the government has already instituted loan guarantees for small and medium-sized companies and a tax amnesty, and provided extra cash to help local authorities fight the coronavirus.

The Government will shortly present the proposals to the Riksdag in an additional amending budget and in the coming spring amending budget.

The proposals are based on an agreement between the Swedish Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Green Party.

In a statement, the Swedish government said that eEven with the powerful measures taken so far to combat the economic impact of the virus outbreak, unemployment is expected to rise sharply. This means that unemployment insurance will have to be adapted. The requirements concerning who can receive money from an unemployment insurance fund will be temporarily relaxed in terms of how much people need to have worked and how long people need to have been a member of a fund. At the same time, it is proposed that both the highest and the lowest amounts paid out by an unemployment insurance fund be raised temporarily to alleviate the economic impact on people who become unemployed. It is also proposed that the six initial qualifying days be removed and that the unemployment insurance funds receive funding for administration.

To better address a development in which more people are expected to become unemployed, it is proposed that increased funding be paid to Arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish public employment service) and labour market policy programmes. It is proposed that the period during which a person may have an ‘extra job’, a new start job or an introductory job be extended by an additional year for those who already have such jobs. It is also proposed that the maximum time for support for starting a business be extended from six to twelve months. In addition, it is proposed that municipalities receive grants for more summer jobs for young people and funding for green jobs to enable subsidised employment, primarily in the area of nature and forest conservation.

It also announced that to increase opportunities to study at higher education institutions, it is proposed that the number of places be increased. A general expansion of the number of places is proposed, as are more places on summer courses and a foundation year so that unemployed people, and others, have the opportunity to obtain eligibility to enter into further education/training, for example in health care professions. In addition, increased funding is also proposed to strengthen capacity and develop work on distance learning at higher education institutions. Funding will also be allocated for internet-based education, also known as MOOCs (massive open online courses), which is free of charge and open to the public. Anyone who is given notice of the termination of their contract will be able to use these courses to quickly begin knowledge acquisition. To compensate for increased workload, it is also proposed that the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Board of Student Finance receive increased funding.

Meanwhile, at a time when unemployment is expected to rise, there will be a need for better opportunities for further education/training throughout the country. It is proposed that funding to regional vocational adult education increase, with the surplus enabling full central government financing of education. It is proposed that vocational higher education be reinforced with new places, short courses and course packages, as well as various kinds of pilot projects so that more people can complete their qualification. It is proposed that folk high school be expanded, with full financing from central government. In addition, improved possibilities are proposed for distance learning, partly through additional support to education providers in vocational higher education in terms of distance teaching, and partly by making more distance courses available via study associations.

So that health and medical care students can help out in the health care sector without their student aid being reduced, it is proposed that the income ceiling for all those receiving student aid be temporarily removed.

Swedish government 

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