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Foreign PhD students used as cheap labour force in Stockholm
« on: February 05, 2011, 02:06:03 AM »

Foreign PhD students used as cheap labour force in Stockholm

2009-12-13

The Swedish TV documentary Uppdrag Granskning (mission scrutiny) revealed in their programme this week how researchers from poorer countries live under harsh conditions during their time as a PhD students in Sweden.

A Swedish PhD student usually has either a position as hired staff or a scholarship with "extra payment" until a certain acceptable level of standard and including social benefits. This is not the case for most of the phd students who come to above all Stockholm to take their PhD.

Supports a family for SEK 9000 per month

Many of them come to Sweden with a scholarship from their home country which is far beelow what the Swedish PhD students have. Rizwan Raza is a PhD student from Pakistan at KTH in Stockholm where he does advanced research on fuel cells. Rizwan has only SEK 9000 for each months. Note that most Swedish PhD students have around SEK 20.000 each month at least.

For this amount he must not only support himself in expensive Stockholm, but also his wife and his small daughter. Since it is a scholarship he can also not get any social benefits.

Got a baby but not any social support

Another example is a PhD student from China who did not want to go public with her name. She was a PhD student in Stockholm and when she had a baby she got a shock. As a receiver of a scholarship only, she had no access whatsoever to the Swedish welfare system.

- I asked what is the difference between a salary and a scholarship. Then they said that with a salary you must pay a tax. On a scholarship there is no tax and you will get more money in you hand. I remember that answer very clearly, the PhD student said to SVT.

When she had done reseach for two years, she got pregnant and her scholarship was drawn back. She was completely without an income and had to rely totally on the man´s income to support her during the parental leave.

- The most difficult part was not the economic problem but the terrible feeling. You feel like a second class group. You perform the same kind of work like the others, but you are treated in a different way, she says to SVT.

Good for the universities but morally acceptable?

Many of the foreign PhD students do their research at either KTH or Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. They do important research for the university during four years and with their modest income this means a very cheap or even free research for the universities.

These differences between foreign and Swedish PhD students when it comes to income would never be accepted in Sweden if it was about construction workers, mine workers or nurses.

Stefano Bonetti, chairman for the for PhD students´ union at KTH in Kista and member of the national board of Swedish Association for University teachers, is not comfortable with the situation:

- It feels a bit unfair and also unpleasant for us. It is not good to work together with somebody who earns half or a third of what you earn, he says to SVT.

MATS ÖHLÉN
mats.ohlen@stockholmnews.com