Unemployment Agency Hassle

In Sweden there's a sort of unemployment fund you can opt in to paying to if you're in a labour union. If and when you lose your employment you will be entitled to payouts from this fund in lieu of a salary. The payout is a percentage of what your salary was. If you're not in a union you may still be entitled to (much lower, standardised) payouts from a government fund. I don't actually remember if you have to invest in that before hand.

As people whom I communicate often with know I lost my employment early April. I was given a very generous severance and will not suffer economically for quite some time. I certainly don't need any payouts from any of those funds even if I'm eligible, which I haven't really checked. I've not been in a union for a couple of years though.

Because of this I was hoping I wouldn't have to deal with the unemployment agency, the mission of which has changed from helping people to find employment to forcing people through heaps of paperwork in some paranoid belief that the government will be taken advantage of by lazy bums otherwise. But alas, I was mistaken.

There's something we call "sjukpenninggrundande inkomst", roughly translated to "sick pay income base". When you're ill and have to stay home from work you're entitled to receive 80% of your salary up to a certain threshold. As such you need a salary to calculate those 80% from, and that salary level has to be held for at least three consecutive months before said sick leave. And here's the crux of the matter: I formally have no income, because my severance is not salary. Because there is necessarily a gap between jobs before I'm through recruitment processes the base would be SEK 0. The only way to avoid this is to report to the unemployment agency, and that three month counter will be paused while I look for jobs.

In my line of work and with my expertise finding a job is very easy. It does however require a few weeks of process at any potential employer. First, second, third interviews. Test assignments. Then, hopefully, negotiations.

If I want that income base to remain I have to follow the rules. Those rules include filling in forms and being matched to a (outdated and incomplete) database of titles I should be applying for. In my case the database didn't manage to match me to a title (did I mention that it's outdated?). That means I have to apply for "general jobs". That means any and all available jobs. At least six of them each month, while reporting which ones so they can check that I'm not lying about applying.

I don't want, and should not, take any job. Even though I love working in care I won't do it again, because I'm likely to start out at about half the salary I can get in my field. Although my case worker agrees with this they still have to tell me that I must apply for at least six positions as anything each month.

This practice is universally hated by job seekers and recruiters alike. Job seekers have to apply for virtually anything regardless of their own qualifications. You're not a railway engineer? Doesn't matter. You have to fill your quota. At the other end recruiters have to sift through applications that just waste their time; some of them with attached personal letters saying "I don't want this job/am not qualified for this, but I have to apply for it".

I applied for six positions in April. This month I haven't applied for any, because I'm going through those processes and want to see which offers I get first. There's been interviews, talks with references, assignments. Not many days have gone by with nothing to do. I've turned down two employers already, which would no doubt make the unemployment agency furious if they knew. After all I must take the first thing offered me, or at the very least the job I can start the soonest. And I must keep applying for other jobs until such a time as I start, even if a contract is already signed! Even if it wastes everybody's time.

The saddest part of this is that I wanted to spend some of my time subbing in the care sector, because there is real value in doing so even if I don't want to make a career of it. But I am for real worried about how that would affect my sick pay income base. Suddenly I would have a salary again! Very meagre, but a salary non the less.

It's a pretty bullshit and counterproductive system.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal