Swedish Language Blog

Experiences with Arbetsförmedlingen Posted by on Jul 20, 2010 in Culture

Plenty of people are looking for work when moving to a new country.  As Jennie pointed out, there are several places to search for jobs.  Even English speaking ones. When I first moved to Sweden, I didn’t have a job.  I was in search of just about anything, English or Swedish. I had managed to set up a couple of interviews to be had right when I arrived, but nothing was guaranteed.  So my time in Sweden was spent covering all of my job seeking bases.  The first being Arbetsförmedlingen.

Arbetsförmedlingen is the Swedish Public Employment Service.  Essentially, Arbetsförmedlingen exists in order to help unemployed people get jobs.  As Jennie wrote, this includes everything from job coaches to actual job announcements.  It is also one of the government services that can put you on the path to collecting unemployment benefits.

When I walked into my local Arbetsförmedlingen, I sat myself down at a computer terminal and began filling in my resume, background, and education.  As I went along, I hit a snag due to having lived abroad for so long.  I went to the front desk and asked for a bit of help.  Rather than respond to my question with an answer, I received a question in response.  Ska du söka pengar?  Are you applying for money?  I said no.  I was not, I wanted a job.  I was quickly told then that I didn’t even have to be at the office filling anything in because all of the job announcements could be found online.  It felt like I was being thrown out.

I walked away quite disheartened actually.  It seemed like the only reason Arbetsförmedlingen existed was to hand out money.  Honestly, it was a pretty horrible experience and one that stayed with me.  Later that summer I managed to find myself a job without help from Arbetsförmedlingens website.

My experience was not a good one.  There’s really no way around that.  It was unfortunate, but so it goes.  That is not to say all experiences are bad ones.  In fact, I have many friends who moved to Sweden and received quite a bit of help.  They were welcomed in with suggestions on where to look, where to start, how to fix up a CV to fit the Swedish market.  They were paired with coaches and helped all along the way.

I don’t write this to disparage Arbetsförmedlingen.  Or even to scare people away from its services.  In fact, I believe that Arbetsförmedlingen can serve an important role in helping immigrants to Sweden find a job.  When friends tell me they are thinking of moving to Sweden, I always direct them to Arbetsförmedlingens website.  But I also believe it is important to realize that there are many different avenues to finding work.  Many different websites.  Many different services.  There is no silver bullet, but instead an array of tools that can help you along the way.  Despite my experiences, Arbetsförmedlingen should be one of them.

How have your experiences been with Arbetsförmedlingen?

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Edina:

    Eversince I have been registered there I try to find out what all the handläggare do all day round. Either I am an unlucky one with mine, maybe longterm unemployment makes me bitter, but it feels like all they like to do is filling in forms and keep tracks of events. They are not so initiative that one would expect from a job service agent, or at least I feel so.
    It sucks to unemployed in Sweden (as well) and it sucks that one needs to rely on an institution like Arbetsförmedlingen…

  2. Peter:

    I’m a Swedish American having lived most of my life in Sweden, but also 10 or so years in Northern California. Although you can certatinly recieve different experiences depending on the office you go to – in general I agree. Arbesformedling really represent all the bad part of a socialist setup. It’s not a proactive place where you recieve help, it’s more of a daycare/therapy center for distraught people. If you’re a professional, forget it.

    My experience at the California EDD (Employment Development Department) – the Arbetformedlingen equivalent was diametrically different. You will have to be registered here if you want to be able to recieve an unemployment check, but they have a number of really good programs to help you get out there. For professionals especially (“white collar job”), they had a separate department since those type of jobs are approched differently. The director for this department was well connected and had professional resume writing workshops, interview workshops, invited HR professionals from local companies tha shared what they were looking for in an employee, they even had jackets and ties to lend you for interviews. After three weeks I landed a job, and I later learned it was due to how I wrote my resume, which was something that I had learned at the Oakland Int’l EDD.

    Arbetsformedlingen has so much to learn from the Calfornia EDD, but I doubt that the heavy concrete a**es will ever change, and will contiue to waste tax payers money. My 2 cents.

  3. Marcus Cederström:

    @Edina – agreed. I struggled with similar issues, and obviously, just the stress of looking for a job compounds any problems you might run into at Arbetsförmedlingen. Check out this link for some other job ideas: http://bit.ly/c3Fubs

    @Peter – again, that was my experience as well. although I will say, I have two very good friends in similar situations in Sweden who had very good experiences with them. Obviously, each experience is unique to the individual, but I do believe it can be a very frustrating situation when looking for work.

  4. Camilla:

    After graduating from highschool I wanted a “sabbatsår” and work before I attended any university to study. I then went to Arbetsförmedlingen. I had a very brief highly unpleasent experience with a “coach” that told me that my chances were 1 in 1000 for getting a job. I unlisted went home crying (i was only 18) and efter 6 months i finally got a job at Gröna Lund in Sthm, all by myself. Ever since then I have’nt had any contact with Arbetsförmedlingen, even though i was unemplyed once more after my university studies.
    My bf has been out of a job for 6 yrs now, since a year after he graduated, and he has been “oocupied” (sysselsatt) but in my opinion due to Arbetsförmedlingens way of handling things he never gets anywhere.
    Its like Peter says, its like daycare. My bf is a good hardworking (when he gets a chance) person, but after 6 yrs his confidence isnt very high. Arbetsförmedlingen should be coach more, what are the coahes for?

  5. Marcus Cederström:

    It can be a very frustrating experience at times.

  6. Rob:

    My only experience was in 2008 and was a mirror of the authors. I was told not to bother unless I was entitled to a-kassa. I got the impression that they didn’t want anyone else on their books. Now it’s 2012 and this time I am entitled to a-kassa so will be able to test the system properly!

  7. Marcus Cederström:

    good luck, Rob