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The transformation of Arbetsförmedlingen

22 May 2019

Arbetsförmedlingen is a state authority with around 13,400 employees. Of these around 1 400 work at the Head Office. There are currently 242 local employment offices across Sweden.


In December 2018, the Swedish Parliament voted through a new state budget that entailed considerable budget cuts for Arbetsförmedlingen. In the current budget, the labour market based program allocations and administrative appropriations were sharply reduced. In order to get the budget in balance, Arbetsförmedlingen needs to reduce the number of employees and close 130 local offices around the country especially in sparsely populated districts. At the same time, steps to make Arbetsförmedlingen a more modern and digital authority continues rapidly. The development of the digital employment services centre is under progress as previously planned and is key to providing the services and support that job seekers and employers need via telephone, chat and video. Continued collaboration with the municipalities and other authorities is of great importance if Arbetsförmedlingen is to achieve its set goals.

Arbetsförmedlingen’s savings for 2019 correspond to a reduction of the administrative budget, where costs for personnel are included, by SEK 800 million (77 004 609 EUR) compared to the budget for 2018. In addition to this reduction, Arbetsförmedlingen received 450 000 000 EUR (4, 5 billion SEK) less in 2019 compared with 2018 for program initiatives for job seekers.

The Swedish parliamentary election took place in September 2018 and was followed by an unusually lengthy governmental process. Finally, four of the Swedish Parliament's eight parties succeeded in agreeing on a written agreement on 73-point cooperation, the so-called January agreement (Januariavtalet). The agreement is a collaboration agreement between the Social Democrats, the Center Party, the Liberals and the Green Party, and was presented on January 11, 2019. The agreement made it possible for the Social Democrat Stefan Löfven to form a new government and become prime minister. The January agreement is the basis on which the Government will base its work when they continue with the governance of the Employment Service. There are as yet no decisions based on the content of the agreement, but the direction of the agreement is as follows:

  • Job matching will be managed by private actors. A new system based on LOV (the Act on Freedom of Choice Systems) shall be developed where independent actors match and equip job seekers for vacant jobs. The remuneration to the actors should be based on how well they succeed.
  • Arbetsförmedlingen will remain as a state authority, but focus on government responsibility, in the form of control of job seekers and of independent actors, labor market policy assessment, digital infrastructure for job matching and statistics and analysis.
  • Arbetsförmedlingen’s role an expert labour market authority remains.
  • The task of providing digital infrastructure for job matching will also remain a task for Arbetsförmedlingen.

 According to the January agreement, the above mentioned changes must be fully implemented by Arbetsförmedlingen in 2021.



On Wednesday January 30, 2019, Arbetsförmedlingen took the decision to lay off 4,500 employees due to a reduced financial allocation. This affects Arbetsförmedlingen’s operations nationwide in Sweden. Negotiations with the trade unions regarding the reduction of the number of employees and which municipalities will be most affected by this decision are still underway. This is a tough decision for Arbetsförmedlingen and all efforts are needed to ensure that those affected by this decision will receive the support they need.

As of January 1, 2019, the Public Employment Service’s center further received instructions to stop the following labour market based programs; Extra Services (Extratjänst) and Modern State Jobs (Moderna beredskapsjobb) with exceptions of those already running. These programs have been very relevant in bringing the targeted groups that find it most difficult to get work back into the labour market. Arbetsförmedlingen is working intensively to find other approaches that can be equally effective. According to Director General Mikael Sjöberg, It is of great importance that Arbetsförmedlingen continues to match job seekers to available job opportunities or educational programs as efficient as possible.

Facts: At the end of November, 17,820 people held an extra service position and 2 381 took part in modern jobs in different government authorities.


Arbetsförmedlingen in the future

 Budget constraints and cutbacks have put increased focus on digitalization and automation. Arbetsförmedlingen already had planned to gradually make these changes, but with the budget cuts means that this will happen at a faster rate than initially planned.

 In 2019 and 2020, Arbetsförmedlingen plans to launch a number of new technical solutions as part of the authority's digitalization and renewal approach. Among other things, more self-service centres will be available to enable customers to access the help they need by themselves. The new technical solutions will also support employment officers who meet customers in order to offer in-depth and tailored support. Currently, employment officers use different systems that are not linked to each other. In the future, a more cohesive approach for employment agents will be more relevant where rules, administrative support and everything relevant to a particular job seeker is gathered. The purpose of the digital strategy is to help ensure that all decisions taken are legal and consistent and to make Arbetsförmedlingen a modern accessible authority.

Digitization may also facilitate for customers to get in touch with us, it enables more people to access their cases and it reduces administration and frees up time for employment officers so they can provide more qualified efforts for customers who need it.


New assignment from the Government

On May 9 2019, the Swedish Government commissioned Arbetsförmedlingen to prepare for a new authority to be in place in 2021 and to analyse the conditions for this. The assignment must be presented no later than November 1, 2019. Arbetsförmedlingen shall also continuously keep the Government informed about the ongoing work with the assignment. There is a wide range of issues that Arbetsförmedlingen has been asked to analyse and answer. For example how to design control of suppliers in the new Act on Public Procurement system and other procurement. Another question to investigate is how models for compensation to independent actors can be designed. Arbetsförmedlingen is also asked to define the digital and other supporting infrastructure that is needed.


Changes in the network of local offices and new organisation from July 2019

As of March 2019, Arbetsförmedlingen brought forward a proposal on the future structure of the local office network. The proposal has been made available to Arbetsförmedlingen’s stakeholders and to the public; however, it is still not decided on. Essentially, the proposal entails that 106 local PES offices out of 242, will remain.

From 1 July 2019, Arbetsförmedlingen will be organised according to following structure; On the National level the PES will as previous be led by a Director General who is appointed by the Government. A Board also appointed by the Government is responsible for strategic decision making. The three regions today sub-divided into 11 Market Areas will be replaced by two national business areas. One of the business areas will have responsibility for employers and the other for job seekers.

Each business area will be divided in six new regions providing specific customer services either to job seekers or to employers. On the local level there will be 130 local employment offices which is an reduction from the 280 we have today. As a complement to this Arbetsförmedlingen will expand the customer service and new and developed digital services.


The labour market situation

In 2018, Sweden experienced the lowest unemployment rate in ten years. On a broad front, unemployment continued to fall in 2018 to 7 percent. The number of registered unemployed has decreased for both women and men, concerning natives as well as foreign-born and regardless of educational level. However, a large part of the registered unemployed persons lacks the skills that employers demand. "The Swedish labour market remains strong and our forecast for the labour market shows a continued demand for labour in 2019," says Annika Sundén, head of analysis at Arbetsförmedlingen. However, we still have many job seekers who find it difficult to access the labour market. It is for that reason that individuals remain unemployed for longer periods which requires a combination of various initiatives such as  labour market base educational programs, subsidized employment and lower thresholds into the labour market, says Annika Sundén.