Sweden is undoubtedly one of the digital frontrunners in Europe – coming second behind Denmark in the recently announced results from the DESI 2018 Survey. This article will outline the digital skills policy prevailing in the Swedish system and highlight recent efforts that foster the creation of a more inclusive digital workforce. We examine how the skills provision is carried out in the labour market and highlight the key players designing and implementing these policies.
In Sweden, nearly half of the population have advanced digital skills, and, on top of that, around a third more possess the so-called basic digital skills. According to the recently launched European Commission's Digital Economy and Society Index 2018 (DESI) survey, Sweden is among the EU's most advanced digital economies alongside Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands. A key area of strength is in the development of human capital where Sweden ranks third and shows progress in all dimensions of the category: whilst the country has the second highest number of ICT specialists in the labor market (6.3 percent), Swedish employees also have the second highest average score in ICT-related problem solving among OECD countries.
It is also worth mentioning Sweden’s exceptional job security with a back-to-work rate for displaced workers that remains high. In fact, no other OECD country outperforms the Swedes in re-employment - around 85% of laid-off employees find new work within a year. Surprisingly, the system hardly requires any involvement from the government. The Job Security Councils act as a private safety net for citizens and offer an alternative to government led re-employment. Additionally, the active role of the councils ensures there is a stable and continuous delivery of training and upskilling services to re-educate the Swedes.
Regardless of the re-employment policy, there is strong collaboration between the government, industry and various social partners in Sweden. The ministries that are responsible for the skills policies are mainly the Ministries of Education and Research, Employment, Enterprise and Innovation and Justice. While the Ministry of Education and Research works together with universities and higher vocational education to shape the Swedish education system, the two other ministries are responsible for ensuring education meets the needs of the labour market. This skills provision is ensured together with the Swedish Public Employment Service, the Migration Agency, county administrative boards and municipalities. The industry sector, on the other hand, supports the system by offering training activities through education companies and a variety of workforce training initiatives.
Whilst Sweden is a leader in digital transformation, further work remains. The country continues to drag behind many other EU countries when it comes to graduates in science and technology and companies report difficulties in recruiting ICT-specialists. Demand outstrips supply and the relatively low number of graduates in STEM is not expected to increase in the coming years. The Swedish tech sector has raised its concerns around the issue – last year the Swedish IT & Telecom companies stressed that in 2022 there will approximately be a gap of 70,000 ICT specialists, unless urgent measures are taken to attract more foreign workers with IT and digital technology skills.
The industry sector is not alone in signalling the need for people with stronger tech skills such as artificial intelligence and systems architecture. The government has also been approaching the issue as a matter of priority. Although the current national Digital Agenda dates back to 2011, the new Digital Strategy was established last year with clear goals towards a more digitally inclusive society, addressing issues including digital skills and infrastructure. The Swedish newspapers recently reported that the government has allocated SEK 10 million for digital skills education. This digital skills education push will be delivered to local and regional council officials and employees across Sweden's 290 municipalities.
“There is too little knowledge and an urgent need for a lift”The Minister of Digitalisation Peter Eriksson
There are some other initiatives which seek to address the digital skills shortage in Sweden. Here we highlight some of the most promising public sector initiatives.
Vist the Kickstart Digitalisering website
Visit the Skills360 Hackathon website
Visit the Creative Cluster website