Swedes in China doubled in Five Years

The number of Swedish employees working in China has doubled in the last five years, according to a comprehensive report issued by an engineering industry group in Sweden surveying the current industrial landscape between the two countries.

Over 11,500 Swedish companies trade with China, while nearly 600 have a local presence, according to the “Swedish Industrial Corporations in China – 2010 Situation Report” by the Association of Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen), which represents more than 3,500 engineering companies.

Combined, the companies account for 41,000 Swedish employees in China in 2009, the report said.

In comparison, these companies, which employ over 550,000 worldwide, have over 87,000 staff in Sweden.

Five years ago in the last report, the number of Swedish employees in China also doubled from just under 10,000 in 2000.

“In the Nordic region, Sweden has always been China’s largest trade partner. The economic growth between the two countries is getting better,” Liu Yu of the political affairs office at the Embassy of China in Stockholm told The Local on Friday.

The companies with a local presence are concentrated primarily in manufacturing and industrial product sales, as well as consulting services.

While 60 percent of the companies with operations in China has trimmed their head counts overall, four out of 10 of them have maintained or increased the number of workers employed in Sweden.

This differs from the broad and general decline seen in industry in the 2000s and especially after the more recent financial crisis.

“Although Swedish companies are still in an expansion mode, they are much more sophisticated, with a significant local footprint across a multitude of operations,” the association’s chief economist Anders Rune wrote in the report.

As China’s influence on Swedish industry grows, these companies must weigh the considerations of how China’s increasing economic influence will influence long-term socioeconomic prospects within Sweden.

The rapid expansion of Swedish companies in China is good news overall for Sweden, according to the industry group.

China’s heavy infrastructure investments in sectors such as transport, telecommunications and power generation alone represents high demand for both skills and products in areas where Swedish technology companies are well established.

“Swedish telecommunications and energy companies work on cutting-edge technology. They are respected around the world and also pay attention to environmental concerns, so they are sought after in China as the country pursues sustainable growth that will benefit the country,” Liu told The Local, adding that investing in China presents a good opportunity for Swedish companies to grow.

The same applies to strong demand for machinery and other components in the automotive and manufacturing industries in China. The improved R&D and innovation landscape in China are examples of the success of Swedish investments in China.

In addition, low wage costs are becoming less of a factor for Swedish technology companies establishing and expanding operations in China.

Among Chinese companies in Sweden, Liu noted that they have appeared more noticeably in the last two years.

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