Sweden's Foreign AidMany countries allocate a portion of their gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid. However, few countries rival Sweden’s foreign aid. Sweden has a reputation as a generous country in the international community; it gives generous donations to struggling countries for a variety of reasons. The three nations that Sweden provides the most aid to are Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique. Additionally, Sweden distributes its aid to many areas within these three countries. This article highlights Sweden’s efforts to help these impoverished countries.

Tanzania

Tanzania and Sweden have been partners for over half a century. The relationship between the two nations started back in 1963. Since then, Sweden has achieved multiple substantial successes in Tanzania. For example, Sweden has helped deliver electricity to about 20% of the newly powered areas since 2006. Sweden also provided financial assistance to one million small businesses. In this case, over 50% of those beneficiaries were women or young people. Additionally, in 2013, Sweden provided Tanzania with $123 million in official development assistance (ODA). It also provided $103 million in 2015.

According to the website Sweden Abroad, Sweden’s foreign aid in Tanzania is intended to help the country achieve sustainable growth and to give impoverished people opportunities to care for themselves, either by providing them with employment or by starting small businesses. Looking to the future, Sweden will decrease their aid as poverty decreases in Tanzania.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan has also received a tremendous amount of support from Sweden’s foreign aid. One of the core focuses of Swedish aid in Afghanistan is in promoting gender equality for women. Unfortunately, literacy among women in Afghanistan is around 18%. Sweden has worked hard to reduce that statistic. Thankfully, Sweden has increased the number of women attending school. In 2001, one million women attended school in Afghanistan. By 2016, there were 8.2 million children in school, 40% of whom were girls. Sweden has increased the number of girls in school, in part, through the implementation of schools run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. Currently, these schools teach about 70,000 Afghan children. Of that number, 62% are girls.

Sweden has also made strides in protecting women from violence. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, U.N. Women and Women for Afghanistan Women have teamed up to ensure the protection of Afghan women. These agencies have established refuges within 20 provinces of Afghanistan. These refuges offer services including legal assistance and guidance following gender-based violence.

Mozambique

Similar to Tanzania, Mozambique has received Sweden’s foreign aid for many years; Swedish aid to Tanzania started during the 1970s. Sweden has aided Mozambique in many ways, including by preventing child marriages, promoting gender equality and renovating hydroelectric plants. The Pungwe Programme is one specific example of Sweden’s aid in Mozambique. This program takes care of the Pungwe River. Over one million people use the Pungwe River, including Mozambicans in addition to some Zimbabweans.

Hopefully, other countries will follow Sweden’s example and increase their investments in the global community. Sweden’s work in Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique is commendable; however, it will take more aid to bring developing countries into the modern era.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

What You Need to Know About Women’s Rights in SwedenWith the 20th largest GDP per capita in the world, the affluent Scandinavian nation of Sweden is often seen as the quintessential nation for equality and liberalism. With its strong history of leading reforms promoting social welfare in Sweden, the country ranks first in Sustainable Development Goals out of the entirety of U.N. member states. Of these reforms, many work to increase women’s rights in Sweden with a focus on ending the gender disparities seen in many other Western nations.

Reforms in Sweden Ending Gender Disparities

Sweden has been championing gender equality for centuries. In one of the earliest known cases in Europe, women in Sweden were granted suffrage in local elections in 1718. In 1842, girls were allowed to be educated in schools that used to be restricted to males only. Then in 1919, women gained full voting rights in a movement led by suffragist Elin Wägner. Reforms would continue throughout the 20th century with the legalization of birth control and abortions in 1938, the passing of legislation for mandatory three months paid maternity leave in 1955 and the abolition of joint taxation in 1971.

Most recently, the Swedish government outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace in 1980. These laws were further expanded on through the passing of the Swedish Discrimination Act in 2009 and its expansion in 2017 that added protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, racial and ethnic minorities and religious minorities.

Female Representation in Government

Because of the centuries of reform, the advancement of women’s rights in Sweden can be seen even at the highest levels of government. As of 2019, women made up 46% of the Swedish parliament and 50% of the cabinet, including that of the position of Minister of Gender Equality, held by Åsa Lindhagen.

In comparison, women account for 23.7% of today’s United States House of Representatives out of a total of 537 seats. Women also make up only 20.8% of President Donald Trump’s 24-member cabinet.

Sweden’s almost even distribution between male and female government officials represents how far women’s rights in Sweden have advanced. In fact, feminism is now seen in Sweden as an official government policy rather than a social movement with gender equality being “central to the government’s priority” according to a government statement.

Continuing Gender Wage Gap

However, despite these reforms the gender wage gap, like in many other developed nations, still persists. In a 2018 study by the European Union of the gender pay gap in EU countries, it was shown that women earn 12.2% less income than men in Sweden.

While this pay gap is significantly lower than the United States’ 18% or the European Union average of 14.8%, it is also significantly higher than the 5% wage gap in Italy and Luxemburg.

Many experts describe this presence of a wage gap in gender-equal countries as a paradox. It’s unknown why this phenomenon occurs when such measures have been taken to assure women’s rights in Sweden but it is assumed that culture around gender norms and roles plays a part.

Sweden’s historic reforms and the committed government has led it to become one of the most gender-equal countries in the world. Mandating paid maternity leave, legalizing birth control and abortions and increasing women’s representation in parliament have all contribute to this success. However, Sweden still struggles to close the wage gap between males and females even amid the ever-evolving policy promoting women’s rights in Sweden, this is bound to one day be an obstacle to overcome.

Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr 

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign PolicySweden, one of the Nordic countries known for its economic stability, high education rates and social mobility, has also been serving as a prime example of humanitarian-focused foreign policy. The Scandinavian nation has not participated in a single war since 1814 and is currently running one of the world’s most revolutionary foreign policies. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is the first of its kind.

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

With regard to foreign policy, minority groups and underrepresented populations are often unintentionally overlooked. Sweden’s foreign policy, on the other hand, takes a modern approach, becoming the first country in the world to launch a feminist foreign policy in 2014. Sweden has a feminist government and the approach was inspired by years of efforts to promote gender equality and focuses and take heed of the voices rarely heard in the distant wars and conflicts.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is based on the justification that lasting peace, security and development cannot be achieved if half the world’s population is excluded. The policy is a response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that endless women and girls face daily, all over the world. By taking this approach, the Swedish government hopes to change the way the world perceives the structure of international relations in today’s globalized world.

Sweden’s International Aid

Sweden is one of the only nations that has surpassed the goal of giving 0.7% of its GNI to foreign aid and has been providing around 1% consistently since 2008. Prior to COVID-19, the developmental aid from Sweden had been mainly directed to Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

What is Sida?

Sweden’s foreign policy is dedicated to helping nations worldwide accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aid provided and how it is utilized depends on the needs of each nation and the nation’s SDG standing. Sida is a Swedish government agency that works globally to fight for the improvement of SDGs in every nation and creates long-term projects that aim to do so. Strategies and policies for each country that Sweden aids are selected in accordance with each country’s needs, ensuring that foreign aid is personalized and effective.

A leader in Foreign Policy

For more than a decade, Sweden has been acting as a leader of humanitarian international relations and is now one of three nations running a feminist foreign policy. The country ensures in its every step that its actions on foreign grounds and the aid provided have positive long-term influences, rather than acting as a momentary band-aid. This type of foreign policy is an inspiring example of what is needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and fight global poverty, hunger and inequality worldwide.

– Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Long-standing CommitmentOn September 22, 2020, Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation, took to Twitter to announce that Sweden will continue to commit 1% of the country’s GNI to official developmental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, urging the international community to follow in the country’s footsteps. This act is indicative of Sweden’s long-standing commitment to eliminate poverty, which is a promise the country is dedicated to keeping.

A Leader in Foreign Aid

According to the OECD, Sweden dedicates around 1% of its national income to developmental aid, making it the highest developmental assistance donor. The country’s commitment to policy development issues is the strongest in three categories: peace and conflict prevention, gender equality and women’s rights as well as environmental sustainability. Since 2006, the country has committed to regularly donate a portion of its GNI as official developmental assistance (ODA) and has since kept its word, donating at least 1% or more every year.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)

Sida is a government agency of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Sida is responsible for Sweden’s official development assistance to developing countries.

Sida is a prominent international actor with an overall mission to make sure people living under poverty and oppression are able to enhance their living conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sida allocated $149 million to mitigate the pandemic’s effects on vulnerable communities and populations abroad. Sida has collaborated with many different multilateral organizations to uphold Sweden’s promise of helping the international community during the pandemic..

Sida has bilateral development cooperation with 35 different partner countries from four different continents and consistently supports multilateral organizations in their pursuit of increasing human rights and democracy globally.

A Leader for Women’s Empowerment

The country has shown relentless support for gender equality and women’s rights, highlighting Sweden’s long-standing commitment to ending gender discrepancies around the world. Sweden is a pioneer for many new policies regarding women’s rights. For instance, in 2014, Sweden created the world’s very first feminist foreign policy. Sweden has garnered the support of many foreign bodies and their allies by raising awareness through forums. The most notable being the 2018 Stockholm Forum of Gender Equality. The gathering brought 700 members from 100 different countries to discuss the implementation of new policies to protect women in vulnerable communities from oppressive regimes, further elevating their rights and enabling an inclusive society.

A Leader for Environmental Sustainability

Furthermore, Sweden’s clean carbon footprint is impressive, with a large quantity of the country’s waste recycled. The country has committed to net-zero emissions by the year of 2045 and it has dedicated many resources to encourage countries across the globe to implement sustainable environmental practices. The country has shown continued leadership. In 2017, Sweden had co-chaired the U.N. Ocean Conference with Fiji. In 2018, Sweden also hosted GEF-7 Replenishment, a meeting between contributing and potential participants from all around the world with efforts to eliminate non-renewable energy sources in the near future.

Sweden: A Developmental Assistance Model

Sweden’s long-standing commitment to developmental assistance highlights the country’s leadership skills as an exemplary model for other developed nations. Sweden’s relentless efforts in supporting foreign aid, even during a pandemic, is a model that needs to be mimicked by other developed nations that have the same capacity to help, now more than ever.

– Mina Kim
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid Policies In 2019, the Overseas Development Institute came out with the principled aid index to assess the degree to which donor countries are contributing to a prosperous world. According to the report, the principled foreign aid policies not only benefit the country that receives the aid, but it also serves the interests of the donor country. Below is a list of how this report’s top five countries are using their foreign aid:

5 Countries Foreign Aid Policies

  1. Luxembourg is a small country in Western Europe that has pledged 0.96% of its gross national income (GNI) to go towards development and aid. It is one of the few countries that meet a goal set by the U.N. to dedicate 0.7% of a country’s GNI to foreign aid. Luxembourg starts by targeting some of its partner countries, which include Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Mali and Senegal. With remaining funds, Luxembourg helps provide humanitarian assistance in Kosovo, the Palestinian territories and Vietnam. The country also focuses on private enterprises through microfinance and inclusive finance to help promote productivity. In 2020, Luxembourg joined the International Aid Transparency Initiative which motivates the government to share data about foreign aid spending with the public. Accountability is an important factor in creating sustainable aid.
  1. The United Kingdom is another country that has met the U.N. goal of 0.7% of GNI for foreign aid. The U.K. set the goal back in 1974 but recently achieved it in 2013. Additionally, the government inscribed the goal into law in 2015 so that the country now has a legal duty to achieve it. Around 64% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to countries for bilateral aid. The main recipients of bilateral aid include Pakistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan. The remaining 36% of the U.K.’s foreign aid goes to multilateral institutions like the E.U. and the U.N. Additionally, the U.K. has also provided humanitarian aid for Liberia and Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak. Also, the country offered assistance to Nepal and Indonesia — following natural disasters and Somalia during the hunger crisis.
  1. Sweden has continuously met the U.N. goal since 1976. The country even made its own goal to dedicate 1% of its GNI to foreign aid in 2008. In 2019, Sweden allotted 0.98% of its GNI for foreign aid. Along with Norway, Sweden is considered to be a “humanitarian superpower.” The Swedish development cooperation, also known as Sida, is Sweden’s leading agency for providing foreign assistance. Sweden has 33 partner countries that it helps by creating income opportunities and strengthening democracy. Sweden is dedicated to helping achieve the U.N., 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s primary goals include human rights, democracy and the rule of law, gender equality, the environment and climate change, health equity and education and research.
  1. Norway has met the U.N. goal for providing foreign aid since 1976. In 2019, Norway apportioned 1.02% of its GNI for foreign aid and development. Norway’s foreign aid policies use an approach that follows the 2005 Paris principles. These principles value ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and accountability. Norway provides foreign aid funding for civil society organizations and budget support. The country also uses a large part of its budget to help people inside its borders. For example, Norway has used part of its budget to provide for its refugee population, which included more than 50,000 refugees in 2019.
  1. Ireland currently does not meet the U.N. goal, but the country is hoping to double its impact by 2025. In 2017, 0.36% of Ireland’s GNI went toward its foreign aid budget. Ireland’s foreign aid focuses on developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The country hopes to combat the issues of displacement and conflict, which Ireland’s main concern — climate change, tends to exacerbate. Additionally, developing countries are more likely to feel the effects of climate change disproportionately as compared with developed countries.

Striding Forward

These five countries’ foreign aid policies are impressive examples of how developed nations can make valuable contributions to global well-being. Hopefully, more undeveloped countries continue to benefit from foreign aid policies of more developed nations. Likewise, it is important these developed countries continue their efforts to achieve the U.N. goals, for theirs and the world’s greater benefit.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Sweden
When discussing global poverty, most tend to think of cases of extreme poverty. However, poverty exists everywhere, even in prosperous countries. Sweden, a Nordic country in Northern Europe known for its progressive politics, is home to a population of 10.3 million. Although Sweden is a relatively wealthy country, 16.2% of its people are at risk of falling into poverty. Here are the top 10 facts about poverty in Sweden.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. As referenced above, Sweden’s “risk of poverty” is defined as meeting the criteria for severe material poverty or low-income standards. Citizens with low-income standards are those whose household income is inadequate to afford necessary living costs. Currently, 6% of Sweden’s population (570,000 people) fall under low-income standards.
  2. In 2016, Statistics Sweden announced that less than 1% of the population in Sweden suffers from severe material poverty. Sweden defines “severe material poverty” by not being able to afford at least four of the following six components: unforeseen expenses, a week’s holiday per year, a meal with meat or fish every other day, satisfactory heating and housing, capital goods and bills.
  3. Since 2015, Sweden’s unemployment rate has declined by more than 0.35% per year. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.35%, which was a 0.37% decline from 2017. However, due to COVID-19, unemployment rates grew to 8.2% in Sweden as of April 2020. 
  4. Sweden’s welfare system reduces poverty across the country. Sweden offers a standard minimum income for all its citizens, providing approximately 60% to 70% of the average wage in Sweden. Swedish law additionally ensures all workers earn 25 paid vacation days and 16 public holidays each year.
  5. Sweden offers equality between genders, especially in the workplace. In 2009, The Swedish Discrimination Act required employers to promote equality between men and women and ban workplace harassment. Then in 2016, Sweden updated its parental leave for both parents to have three months of paid leave. Nevertheless, Sweden has room for improvement, as there is still a 10% wage-gap between men and women.
  6. Sweden’s incorporation of equal education opportunities, beyond gender or socioeconomic status, help increase opportunities for Swedish citizens, thus limiting poverty expansion. Sweden’s Education Act protects free education equality for citizens aged 6-19. In 2017, Sweden reported more than 90% of Swedish students received leaving qualifications equivalent to that of a United States high school diploma. 
  7. The free, universal healthcare in Sweden aids the country in fighting poverty. The healthcare system is highly tax-funded, and it ensures all citizens have equal access to substantial health benefits. Sweden’s Health and Medical Service Act protects universal healthcare, and Sweden’s central government oversees it.
  8. The life expectancy of Sweden is one of the highest in the world: 84 years. Municipal taxes primarily fund elderly care in Sweden. Statistics from 2014 show that the total cost of elderly care was SEK 109.2 billion, or more than USD 12.7 billion. Yet, the patients compensated for only 4% of the total cost themselves.
  9. Sweden’s aim for equal opportunities benefits everyone, including the disabled. The Swedish government and parliament authorized several disability policies. The policies cover accessibility regulations for disabled citizens across housing, transportation and employment sectors. 
  10. Although Sweden offers its citizens free education, universal healthcare and a standard minimum income, the country’s taxes are monumentally high. The tax range in Sweden is 29.2% to 35.2%, depending on the citizen’s income, compared to the lowest federal income tax in the United States, which is 10%.

As the Swedish government fixates on opportunities for its citizens, aiming for equality across genders, age and socioeconomic status, the country offers hope to its citizens that they will continue to reduce their poverty statistics.

Kacie Fredrick
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Sweden
Sweden is a predominantly urban Scandinavian country with a population of more than 10 million people. Its economy blends ideas of free-market capitalism with extensive welfare components. From 2016 to 2017, Sweden’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased while its unemployment level decreased. As a result, the nation has achieved a high standard of living and high life expectancy in comparison to many other nations. Here are four facts about hunger in Sweden and how the government is addressing it.

4 Facts About Hunger in Sweden

  1. Sweden reports very low rates of poverty and few issues with malnutrition. Malnutrition can occur from lack of food accessibility and hunger. According to Smart City Sweden, malnutrition is a limited issue in the nation and rarely impacts children’s growth. However, the organization has revealed there are inequalities in those who experience hunger depending on the resident’s social and economic positions. Hunger is more likely to impact people living in poverty.  Depending on the definition, there are varying rates of poverty in Sweden. Currently, absolute poverty is nonexistent in Sweden. Yet, when focusing on relative poverty, 15% of the Swedish population is impoverished in comparison with the national median income. These low poverty rates also correlate with low rates of hunger in Sweden.
  2. The Swedish welfare system and charity organizations help the hungry. The Swedish government provides its impoverished inhabitants with essential needs through its sizable welfare programs. For example, everyone in the nation has access to universal social insurance, making them less economically vulnerable and keeping hunger in Sweden low. In 2018, Sweden spent 26.1% of its GDP on social spending. This money goes towards helping low-income households sustain their basic needs. Additionally, Sweden has organizations, such as Sweden’s City Missions, that aid those in need by supplying sleeping accommodations, clothing and food. According to its report, 62% of the organization’s poverty interventions deal with feeding the hungry; therefore, Sweden’s City Missions is helping eradicate hunger in Sweden.
  3. Sweden is working on hunger initiatives with the United Nations. In 2018, the Swedish government and the United Nations World Food Programme partnered to combat global hunger through the signing of a Strategic Partner Agreement. The government made the most substantial contributions the organization has ever seen at $370 million. These funds go towards food assistance to help food crisis victims. Also, the Swedish government has partnered with the United Nations on global goals, one of which focuses on hunger. The objective is zero hunger and it aims to internationally end hunger, improve food security and advance nutrition.
  4. There are numerous Swedish networks that have committed themselves to fighting world hunger. Many Swedish organizations are focusing on globally eradicating hunger as the issue of hunger becomes less prevalent in Sweden. The Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative involves government officials, citizens and the private sector in the conversation on hunger. Its mission statement expresses the goal of encouraging discussion around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal: zero hunger. To reach this goal, the initiative creates expert groups that educate people on hunger through articles and connects people who aim to take action in fighting hunger. On a larger scale, Smart City Sweden, the state-funded organization, works to end hunger by focusing on sustainability. For instance, Smart City Sweden has successfully worked towards this goal through intervening in global agriculture. The organization has donated a large amount of money towards making agriculture more effective, moving the world closer towards ensuring food security.

Although hunger in Sweden is low in comparison to other nations, the nation puts a substantial amount of money into fighting it. It has become an international leader for combating hunger through partnerships, organizations and networks.

– Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in Sweden
Sweden
is known for its generous welfare state; however, homelessness in Sweden is a rising concern. Swedes spend a larger proportion of their disposable income on housing compared to other European countries, and that figure is rising rapidly. The lack of affordable housing and the growing population has led to a housing crisis and an increase in homelessness.

The definition of homelessness in Sweden is divided into four categories:

  • acute homelessness

  • institutional care and category housing

  • long-term housing solutions

  • short-term insecure housing solutions

The Swedish government conducts a national survey every six years to analyze trends in homelessness. The survey reported that 33,269 people were homeless in 2017. Since the last report in 2011, acute homelessness increased from 4,500 to 5,935 people, and those in long-term housing solutions increased from 13,900 to 15,838.

Who Are The Most Vulnerable to Homelessness?

Women are increasingly more susceptible to homelessness, compared to men. More than one-third of the homeless in Sweden have children younger than 18, resulting in at least 24,000 children with parents who are homeless.

The majority of parents struggling with homelessness stated the main cause as having an income too low for them to qualify as tenants in the ordinary housing market. This factor forces them to enter the secondary market and into long-term, but insecure, housing situations.

In recent years, a large influx of migrants including refugees has contributed to rising homelessness in Sweden. Around 43% of people that are homeless were born in a country other than Sweden. Sweden has the highest rate of homelessness per 1,000 inhabitants in Scandanavia.

More people are becoming homeless due to evictions, sudden unemployment, or relationship breakups than due to mental health or substance abuse issues. Since more than 20% of the homeless do not need additional social services besides housing, they do not get support at all. The largest contributor to homelessness in Sweden is the housing crisis.

The Housing Crisis

There is a lack of available and affordable housing in Sweden, especially in cities. In 2017, 88% of municipalities reported a housing shortage. The wait time for an apartment is significantly increasing over time, making it nearly impossible to secure a rental apartment.

A reason for the shortage is that new construction is not keeping up with the growing population. There is low production of new public housing or rental apartments due to the cost of land, workers and materials; the cost is high due to the extremely high demand. There is little space left to build, and architects and city planners are reluctant to build taller to adhere to Swedish building customs. The rentals that are built are directed to upper-class markets with an average rental rate substantially higher than what social services will pay. Rising costs have made it even more difficult for marginalized groups to enter the conventional housing market.

What is the Solution?

To deal with the lack of housing, some have turned to co-housing. Companies such as Colive are remodeling large houses where tenants would pay for a bedroom and shared common spaces. The plan is to create tens of thousands of units within the decade.

Homelessness in Sweden is more of a structural issue than a social one, although the social aspects should not be ignored. While there is no explicit national strategy to address homelessness, there have been calls for an integrated housing provision strategy in which the state, region and municipality are all jointly responsible for providing adequate housing. Policies need to be more proactive to tackle the large proportion of people stuck in the secondary housing market. Measures need to be put in place to incentivize affordable housing builds with specific goals for low-income housing, according to the Stadmissionen report.

Having one’s own home is a fundamental need that also offers safety and security. Housing First, a method for dealing with homelessness in New York City, was implemented in Stockholm and Helsingborg in 2010. This approach eliminates conditions for housing and treats housing as a fundamental human right. Now, 94 municipalities in the country have Housing First strategies; these programs are local and not national.

Overall, the solution to homelessness in Sweden requires solving the housing crisis. The government needs to enact policies that spur affordable constructions while simultaneously moving the responsibility of homelessness prevention to municipalities and the state rather than social services.

Katie Gagnon
Photo: Pixabay

Health Care in SwedenSweden has the highest income tax rate in the world. More than 57% is annually deducted from people’s incomes. However, Sweden placed seventh out of 156 countries in the World Happiness Report 2019, and its healthcare system is one of the best in the world.

In 1995, Sweden joined the European Union and its population recently reached over 10 million people. Healthcare is financed through taxes and most health fees are very low. Sweden operates on the principle that those who need medical care most urgently are treated first. Higher education is also free, not only to Swedes, but also to those who reside in the rest of the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland. Like healthcare, it is largely financed by tax revenue. Here are 10 facts about healthcare in Sweden.

 10 Facts About Healthcare in Sweden

  1. Sweden has a decentralized universal healthcare system for everyone. The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs dictates health policy and budgets, but the 21 regional councils finance health expenditures through tax funding; an additional 290 municipalities take care of individuals who are disabled or elderly. To service 10.23 million people, Sweden has 70 regionally-owned public hospitals, seven university hospitals, and six private hospitals.

  2. Most medical fees are capped and have a high-cost ceiling. According to the Swedish law, hospitalization fees are not allowed to surpass 100 kr (Swedish Krona), which is equivalent to $10.88, a day and, in most regions, the charge for ambulance or helicopter service is capped at 1,100 kr ($120). Prescription drugs have a fee cap and patients never pay more than 2,350 kr ($255) in a one-year period. In the course of one year, the maximum out-of-pocket cost is 1,150 kr ($125) for all medical consultations. If the person exceeds the cap, all other consultations will be free. Additionally, medical services are free for all people under the age of 18.

  3. The cost for medical consultations not only has a price cap, but is generally low. The average cost of a primary care visit is 150 kr-300 kr ($16-$33) and the cost of a specialist consultation, including mental health services, ranges from 200 kr-400 kr ($22-$42). The cost of hospitalization, including pharmaceuticals, does not exceed 100 kr ($11) per day and people under the age of 20 are exempt from all co-payments. Healthcare services, such as immunizations, cancer screenings, and maternity care, are also free and have no co-payments.

  4. All dental care for people under the age of 23 is free. When a person turns 23, they no longer qualify for free dental health care in Sweden and must pay out of pocket. However, the government pays them annual subsidies, or an allowance, of 600 kr ($65) to pay for dental expenses. In Sweden, the cost of a tooth extraction is 950 kr ($103) and the cleaning and root filling for a single root canal costs 3,150 kr ($342). If dental care costs total anywhere between 3,000 kr-15,000 kr ($326-$1,632), the patient is reimbursed 50% of the cost. If it exceeds 15,000 kr, 85% of the cost is reimbursed.

  5. To battle its large medical waiting lists, Sweden has implemented a 0-30-90-90 rule. The wait-time guarantee, or the 0-30-90-90 rule, ensures that there will be zero delays, meaning patients will receive immediate access to health care advice and a seven-day waiting period to see a general practitioner. The rule also guarantees that a patient will not wait more than 90 days to see a specialist and will receive surgical treatment, like cataract removal or hip-replacement surgery, a maximum of 90 days after diagnosis. Sweden’s government also committed 500 kr million ($55 million) to significantly decrease wait time for all cancer treatments. In 2016, Sweden developed a plan to further improve its health services by 2025 through the adoption of e-health.

  6. In 2010, Sweden made private healthcare insurance available. The use of private health insurance has been increasing due to the low number of hospitals, long waiting times to receive healthcare, and Sweden’s priority treatment of emergency cases first. In Sweden, one in 10 people do not rely on Sweden’s universal healthcare but instead purchase private health insurance. While the costs for private plans vary, one can expect to pay 4,000 kr ($435) annually for one person, on average.

  7. Sweden’s life expectancy is 82.40 years old. This surpasses the life expectancies in Germany, the UK, and the United States. Maternal healthcare in Sweden is particularly strong because both parents are entitled to a 480-day leave at 80% salary and their job is guaranteed when they come back. Sweden also has one of the lowest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Four in 100,000 women die during childbirth and there are 2.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. There are 5.4 physicians per 1,000 people, which is twice as great as in the U.S and the U.K, and 100% of births are assisted by medical personnel.

  8. The leading causes of death are Ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and colorectal cancer. While the biggest risk factors that drive most deaths are tobacco, dietary risks, high blood pressure and high body-mass index, only 20.6% of the Swedish population is obese and 85% of Swedes do not smoke. The Healthcare Access and Quality Index (HAQ Index) also estimates that, in 2016, the rate of amenable mortality, or people with potentially preventable diseases, were saved at a rate of 95.5% in Sweden. The HAQ Index estimates how well healthcare in Sweden functions; the index shows that it is one of the best in the world.

  9. Sweden’s health expenditure represents a little over 11% of its GDP, most of which is funded by municipal and regional taxes. Additionally, in Sweden, all higher education is free, including medical schools. There are no tuition fees and a physician can expect to have an average monthly salary of 77,900 kr ($8,500).

  10. In Sweden, 1 in 5 people is 65 or older, but the birth rate and population size are still growing. Because Sweden has one of the best social welfare and healthcare systems in the world, people live longer and therefore 20% of the population does not generate income or pay taxes from their salary. This dynamic stagnates social welfare benefits and slows down the economy. Increasing immigration and a rise in births are the two solutions to ensure that the younger generations will receive the same benefits. Swedish-born women have an average of 1.7 children and foreign-born women have an average of 2.1 children. In 1990, Sweden broke the 2.1 children fertility rate but quickly dropped below 2.0 in 2010. Since 2010, Sweden has seen an increase of 100,000-150,000 immigrants and has seen 45,000 citizens emigrate.

In 2018, Sweden reached its record highest GDP (PPP) per capita of almost $50,000. Despite having the highest taxes in the world, the living conditions and healthcare in Sweden are some of the best. With time, its population will continue to grow and the healthcare system will continue to advance.

Anna Sharudenko
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SwedenHomelessness is an issue that plagued Sweden for a long time. Well known for its national welfare system, the Swedish government provides a large safety net for its citizens to fall back on if they ever fall ill or lose their job. The Swedish government provides universal healthcare, family support and financial support for the elderly and retired. All Swedes, regardless of need, could call upon the government to receive the benefits provided by the Swedish welfare system. However, this doesn’t mean that the Swedish welfare completely shelters its residents from homelessness. What is causing homelessness in Sweden? Who are the homeless people in the famous welfare state? What is being done to alleviate this issue?

Defining Homelessness

Because numerous factors can cause homelessness, every country has a different definition of homelessness. In Sweden, a person is homeless if they are in:

  1. acute homelessness.
  2. an institution and not having any housing prior to release, or in an institution even though they should have been released because they lack their own housing.
  3. long-term living arrangements organized by Social Services.
  4. in private short-term living arrangements.

This certainly is a broad definition to determine if someone is homeless. However, even with this broad definition, counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is a challenge. In Sweden’s 2011 survey, for example, there were 34,000 homeless people. Around 4,500 people were classed as being in an acute situation, which means that they were on the streets or in homeless shelters. However, some homeless organizations estimate that the total number could be higher. Stockholms Stadsmission, a Swedish homeless charity, pointed out that the data only presented 370 E.U. migrants. The organization claims that the survey’s estimate of these E.U. migrants is too low.

Causes of Homelessness

People fall into homelessness in Sweden for multiple reasons such as breaking up with a significant other, escaping domestic abuse or suffering from mental illness. However, the lack of affordable housing seems to be one of the main causes of homelessness in Sweden. The housing prices in Sweden, especially in Stockholm, have increased homelessness significantly. Sweden’s steadily growing population, which reached 10,183,175 people in 2018, is definitely affecting the ever-rising housing price. While an industry expert suggests that Sweden is building more homes to meet the rising demand for housing, these housings are often not affordable due to the cost of materials, land and labor.

The ones who are most affected by this rising housing prices are the marginalized and vulnerable members of society. Furthermore, Sweden’s welfare system is attracting an increasing number of immigrants into the country, which puts a strain on the system.  While many migrants to Sweden are financially stable, there are groups of migrants who are not as fortunate. There are marginalized groups of E.U. migrants who fall into homelessness in Sweden.

Amnesty International’s 2018 report on the Romani population in Sweden found that there is a sizable population of Romani and other E.U migrants who are suffering from homelessness in Sweden. Romani, in particular, are marginalized more than other races in the entirety of Europe. In Sweden, the report suggests that many Romani people suffer from prejudice and lack of access to basic amenities such as water, shelter and healthcare. Lacking heated shelter, for example, is dangerous for the homeless since night temperature in Sweden usually falls below freezing. One homeless man described in an interview for the report that he had to wander around the streets to keep himself from freezing to death after being kicked out of a bus station at 2 am.

Measures Being Taken to Help

Some people aim to alleviate homelessness in Sweden. The Swedish government, for its part, is taking measures to alleviate the current issue. Stockholms Stadmission, for example, opened the first food bank in Stockholm. Human rights activists in Sweden are also calling for multiple reforms to alleviate the homelessness in Sweden. Since the highest cost of land, workers and materials to build new housing is negatively affecting the lives of the homeless in Sweden, human rights activists are calling for rental, tax and land reforms. Swedish politicians are responding to this call. Recently, the Swedish government introduced measures to encourage housing turnovers and subsidies to encourage the construction of more affordable housing.

Homelessness in Sweden is a complicated issue. The rising demand and price of housing are putting pressure on Sweden’s steadily increasing population. While Sweden’s broad definition of a person’s homelessness might broaden the number of people who can receive assistance, the task of counting the exact number of homeless people in Sweden is still challenging. Many EU migrants, the Romani people in particular, still face the danger that homelessness in Sweden brings. The Swedish government and charity organizations are taking measures to address this issue both on the local and governmental levels. While a long road still lies ahead for the homeless of Sweden, many hope that a better life is coming for them.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr