Malin Dahl is the acting operations manager for Øresunddirekt Sweden, an information center located in Malmö along the Danish-Swedish border. The Øresunddirekt’s mandate is to provide accurate public information to citizens and companies who work across the strait. “We help them so that they can navigate two legislations and make the right decision for their future”, she explains. “Øresunddirekt’s mission is also to listen to cross border commuters so that we can identify and prevent new cross-border obstacles”.
While consulting with cross-border workers, Øresunddirekt Sweden’s staff identified two obstacles which hinder the smooth functioning of an integrated cross-border labour market in the Øresund region. Cross-border mobility of workers is high in the Øresund region, with most cross-border workers living in Sweden and working in Denmark. Yet, the border still creates disadvantages for employees and employers.
The first hurdle affects cross-border workers who have part-time jobs both in Sweden and Denmark. According to the current social security systems, Danish businesses who employ people in Denmark who also have a job in Sweden risk to have to pay high contributions to the Swedish government. This not only restricts the free movement of workers, but also results in some people not being able to fully support themselves.
The second obstacle concerns more specifically third-country nationals willing to work across the border. Even though the free movement of workers grants EU citizens the right to live and work in different member states, this right is not granted equally to third-country nationals. In Denmark, there is a high demand for skilled workers, but for third-country nationals residing in Sweden it is extremely complicated to obtain a Danish work permit, even if they have a long-term residence permit in Sweden.
From December 2022 to March 2023, Øresunddirekt Sweden benefited from b-solutions’ support to tackle these issues. They presented two cases to receive advice for potential solutions: “Problem to work in both Sweden and Denmark at the same time” and “Third country nationals excluded from the labour market in the region of Øresund”. Emelie Svensson, the expert who worked on both cases, suggested revisions of the Øresund agreement on social security rules for employees who have multiple jobs and on immigration.
For the first case with the title “Problem to work in both Sweden and Denmark at the same time”, solutions identified consist of making permanent the exceptions to social security rules that were introduced in response to Covid-19; introducing exception to social security rules into the Øresund Agreement for employees who have multiple jobs; and prohibiting Danish social security clauses which put the payment of Swedish social security burden on the employee.
For the second case, “Third country nationals excluded from the labour market in the region of Øresund”, the expert suggests different steps for Denmark to accept work permits of non-EU citizens in the area of Øresund.
“It has been very interesting to participate (in b-solutions) because we have felt much frustration about the two obstacles but now we have got new energy”, said Malin. “Emelie has done an excellent job in structuring the case and finding new suggestions for solutions. We thought we already had “done all the thinking” – but Emelie proved us wrong. Her new approach resulted in new solutions”, she explained further.
b-solutions’ support provides innovative solutions tailored to the specificities of the territories in border regions.
Nevertheless, the implementation of the solutions requires time and political commitment, as underlined by Malin: “Of course it would be fantastic if the suggested solutions could be implemented right away but both obstacles are highly political so we don’t have very high hopes for a fast process. But we will present them in every forum where we participate and we have passed them on to the Nordic councils of ministers.”
The solutions are on their way to be added on the political agenda of the actors of the region and we fully support Øresunddirekt Sweden in this process.