EU - Sweden opens labour market to new EU workers

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In a Parliament session yesterday, MPs rejected a proposal made by the Social Democrat party in power to restrict the entry of workers from the new EU accession countries.

This means that Sweden will be only the third EU country joining Ireland and the UK in deciding to open its labour market to citizens of the new EU member states. Unlike in the UK and Ireland, however, who will restrict access to welfare benefits, these new workers from Central and Eastern Europe will only have to work ten hours a week to qualify for access to social security provisions.

The vote is seen as a punishment against the ruling party and Prime Minister Goran Persson, who was unable to get support neither from liberals nor conservatives.

Critics of the decision claim that overall wages might fall and that Sweden's generous social security system might be exploited. The restrictions proposed were also seen as too rigid, showing hostility towards migrants. The proposal included the requirement that migrants from Central and Eastern Europe would only be able to stay in Sweden if they had a full-time job with a fair salary and a place to live.

From 1 May citizens from all 10 new EU accession countries will therefore be able to travel to Sweden to look for work.