Q & A

Sweden needs foreign researchers

Foreign researchers work beyond full-time hours and feel more insecure than the overall group, according to a new study from Naturvetarna. These foreign researchers wish to stay in Sweden, but feel unwelcome and restricted by the Swedish system.


In several areas crucial to Sweden’s future competitive-ness, there’s a demand for highly specialized skills. This includes researchers in life sciences, tech, healthcare, and the environmental sector. Given Sweden’s limited number of PhD graduates and its small size, both academia and industry rely on are reliant on international recruitment.

A survey conducted by Naturvetarna explored how its research-focused members in academia perceive their work conditions. The findings suggest that foreign researchers work beyond full-time hours and feel more insecure than the overall group. It’s clear that while these foreign researchers wish to stay in Sweden, they feel unwelcome and restricted by the Swedish system. Even those with a so-called “permanent” position often feel insecure, as they must regularly apply for and receive funds to keep their jobs.

– It is an enormous waste of resources that highly educated researchers are forced to leave Sweden after completing their PhD. Naturvetarna are working to improve the situation for foreign researchers, says Frida Lawenius, CEO at Naturvetarna.

Historically, Sweden has enjoyed a favourable international reputation. However, stricter and more complicated laws and harsh rhetoric about people from other countries, have a negative impact on our appeal. This hurts Sweden’s reputation as a leading knowledge nation.

Naturvetarna’s recommendations include:

  • Universities should offer secure and long-term positions with continuous funding.
  • Foreign researchers shouldn’t be viewed as cheap labour. All researchers should earn liveable salaries and not rely on grants.
  • Working conditions should be equal for both Swedish and foreign researchers.
  • Immigration laws should facilitate international experts and their families wishing to settle in Sweden.
  • The Swedish Migration Agency should speed up permit applications. The regulations need to be comprehensible and allow change of status.
  • Assign coordinators to guide highly educated workers, including researchers, through necessary agency contacts and permits when moving to Sweden.
  • For companies to recruit international talent, Sweden must be appealing, offering available housing, schools, and efficient infrastructure.
  • Sweden cannot afford to lose foreign researchers. 

Read the full report 


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