Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Sweden
Located in northern Europe, Sweden has long been heralded by the international community as the embodiment of the Nordic Model– a projection of pragmatic socialism, a bastion of human rights and prosperity for all. But is the country really worthy of the laudatory praise? In the text below, this question will be answered by presenting the top 10 facts about living conditions in Sweden.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions In Sweden

  1. Sweden boasts a high Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.93, placing the country in the seventh place in world rankings. The HDI aims to measure the overall quality of life in a country and is an aggregate figure comprised of life expectancy at birth, Gross National Income (GNI) and expected years of schooling. Sweden’s HDI is perhaps the best indicator of the overall quality of life and living conditions in the country.
  2. Sweden is geographically varied, which makes the seasons different depending on where you live in the country. Most people think of winter when they hear of Sweden, but because of the warm Gulf Stream, the climate in the country can be much milder than one might expect. The average temperature in Stockholm, country’s capital located in the southeast of the country, ranges from an average of 18 degrees Celsius in July to -3 degrees Celsius in January, low enough to have a dire effect on disenfranchised populations starved for satisfactory housing, heat, or suitable clothing.
  3. Though money cannot buy happiness, it does play a critical role in highlighting a countries’ living conditions. With a GDP per capita of $51,500 in 2017, Sweden ranks 26th in global rankings, behind the likes of the Netherlands, United States and Qatar. As a country, Sweden prides itself on its commitment to reducing economic inequality, reflected in its recent sixth-place ranking in Oxfam’s Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRI). The Swedish government has transferred this good intention into tangible impacts, with Sweden ranking ninth out of the 34 OECD countries in respect to the prevalence of income inequality within the country, as measured by the GINI Coefficient, a leading measure of domestic wealth disparities.
  4. In terms of employment, 76 percent of people aged 15 to 64 in Sweden are currently employed in a paid position, above OECD average of 67 percent. Currently, 78 percent of men are employed and 75 percent of women, which is well above the international female labor force participation rate of 48 percent. Furthermore, only 1 percent of employees work very long hours, compared to the OECD average of 13 percent.
  5. Sweden’s education system is also ranked in the top 10 globally. Education budget amounted to 13.2 percent of total public expenditures, beating the OECD rate of 12.9 percent. Sweden’s school life expectancy, meaning how long the average student stays in school, is 16.1 years.
  6. Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, meaning the monarch is the head of state but exerts no political power. The country’s constitution dates back to 1809 and was later revised in 1975. It is based on four fundamental laws: the Riksdag Act, the Instrument of Government, the Act of Succession, and the Freedom of the Press Act. The country’s’ current Prime Minister is Stefan Lofven. His Excellency King Carl XVI Gustaf is the reigning monarch.
  7. Sweden received a perfect 100 aggregate score by Freedom House in its annual 2018 Freedom in the World rankings, being labeled, unsurprisingly, as “free.” For comparison, the U.S. earned a score of 86, placing it 53rd globally, just three ahead of Ghana and Panama.
  8. Sweden’s life expectancy in 2017 was pegged at 82.4 years, good enough for ninth overall in the world. Sweden’s health care system was recently ranked third in the world. Sweden’s universal health care system is importantly decentralized and largely tax-funded, a system that ensures everyone has equal access to health care services.
  9. Today, 1.33 million people, or roughly 14.3 percent of Sweden’s population, are foreign-born. However, Sweden hasn’t always been as diverse as it is today. In the 1900s, for example, only 0.7 percent of the countries roughly 5 million inhabitants were foreign-born. This relatively sudden and palpable demographic change, from a largely white, Christian and homogenous society to a more religiously, culturally and ethnically diverse one has become a topic of heated debate within the country.
  10. In recent years, Sweden’s reputation as a safe, peaceful country has fallen increasingly under threat. Gang-related crime in Sweden is rising, and for many on the right, it is being used as a case study about how migration policy can go horribly wrong. As aforementioned, in 2016, Sweden took in more refugees per capita than any other nation. Around the same time, violent gang crime has gone up.

As becomes quickly apparent from the article above, Sweden ranks near the top globally in a variety of crucial aspects that help to piece together a thorough picture of living conditions in the country, from its heavily-funded education and health care system to its commitment to upholding democracy, human rights and thwarting income inequality. Nonetheless, significant social strains continue to threaten the country. Sweden’s large refugee intake and changing demography, for example, has been met with a harsh reprimand by some and a rise in crime. If the country fails to address these major issues, its pristine standing in the international communities may be threatened.

– William Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Sweden

Scandinavian countries such as Sweden can often be seen as the golden standard of the struggle against poverty. With such low levels of poverty, Sweden has implemented many successful strategies to eradicate poverty. However, a deeper look into the reality of poverty in Sweden reveals that the country is not the utopia it is often made out to be.

Six Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. While Sweden prides itself on transparency, the country’s poverty statistics have been called into question. Although recent government reports have indicated zero absolute poverty, a recent Sweden City Missions report suggests that many basic poverty interventions still involve delivery of essential food and clothing needs. According to Sveriges Stadsmissioner, 62 percent of Sweden’s 200,000 basic interventions still focus on providing basic sustenance.
  2. According to the Swedish government, programs addressing poverty in Sweden take a multifaceted approach. They include long-term benefits such as pension, healthcare and expansive family benefits. These programs do an excellent job of addressing poverty, not with a one-size-fits-all solution, but with various approaches adapting to different beneficiaries.
  3. Despite these programs, a recent University College study suggests that many of those who receive short-term, “get back on your feet” benefits, which are designed for short-term empowerment, use these benefits for anywhere from 5 to fifteen years. The National Board of Health and Welfare indicates that a third of short-term benefit recipients end up receiving these benefits for longer than intended.
  4. Statistics portraying poverty in Sweden can also ignore citizens that qualify for benefits but do not receive them. This is one of the downfalls of the nation’s robust welfare state. With such a massive bureaucracy to navigate, many citizens are simply unable to complete the necessary forms to receive the benefits they qualify for.
  5. Poverty in Sweden is not just limited to its citizens. With nearly 1,500 refugees entering Sweden every week, the government’s welfare system is being stretched. If the current rate of immigration continues, nearly 2 percent of the Swedish population will soon be refugees. In desperate need of help, these refugees have completed arduous journeys often stretching for thousands of miles and many months. Since they have little to begin with, refugees who settle in Sweden need welfare to assist with nearly every facet of life.
  6. Sweden measures its poverty in terms of absolute poverty (income of $2 per day), rather than relative poverty (less than 60 percent of median income). This means that those who are making barely enough to eat two meals a day are not considered to be in absolute poverty. While a zero absolute poverty level is commendable, statistics portraying poverty in Sweden do not necessarily discuss those who live in relative poverty – many of these people cannot afford much more than a single bottle of water.

Sweden can be looked to and praised for its expansive welfare state and statistical lack of poverty. However, poverty in Sweden still exists, and the country’s official statistics often fail to reflect the reality.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr



Water Quality in Sweden: An Effective ModelWith a national growth in population and a changing environment, access to sanitary water has dwindled and become sporadic across the world. The amount of water in the world is finite, yet there remains a high demand. The suitable supply and water quality in Sweden stand as a role model for the rest of the world.

An OECD survey of average satisfaction with local water quality reports the world average is about 81 percent, yet Sweden’s satisfaction levels top that at 95 percent. Because half of Sweden’s water supply comes from lakes and running water, with the other half being groundwater, their water requires minimal purification.

In addition to their natural extraction methods, Sweden has also enacted programs to ensure adequate water quality. The 2007 to 2013 rural development program granted SEK 510 million to aid agriculture by minimizing nutrient leaching. A study of 65 streams shows a decrease in the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in bodies of water that surround agricultural fields, due to restrictions on the use of these harmful fertilizers.

Water quality in Sweden relates not only to sanitary drinking water, but also to the health of crops and lifeforms in aquatic environments. Thus, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management allotted SEK 310 million for water management, fish conservation and the protection of threatened species. Sweden identifies that human-made substances are detrimental to the quality of water and has adopted the Non-Toxic Environment objective to ensure an environment free of all chemicals created by man that threaten the environment.

Sweden remains one of few countries with a vast number of large reservoirs, providing Swedes with a guaranteed resource for freshwater. Other countries are not as lucky to have such a reliable source of quality water, so a part of Sweden’s success lies with the country’s natural foundation.

However, reservoirs can be manmade, giving other less fortunate countries a valid option to gain more reliable access to water. All of Europe’s reservoirs combined grant its people with 20 percent of their overall water usage.

Even further, various parts of Sweden have suffered from droughts or flooding. The irregular weather causes farmers to relocate or to increase irrigation practices. Increases in precipitation have caused negative health effects. The excessive amount of water causes sewage overflow, leading to waterborne diseases. A study in the U.S. demonstrated that 51 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks occurred right after heavy rainfall.

Sweden has implemented programs to ensure the supply of water remains sustainable. The government focuses on protecting bodies of water, since these lakes and reservoirs make up a great percentage of the country’s water. In 2010, they enacted laws to restrict water usage and minimize the overall demand for water. The EU Water Framework Directive incorporated water efficiency plans and water resource management. Although Sweden’s percentage of water gained is on the rise, they are still working to conserve it and lower their demand for quality water.

Perhaps other countries, developing and developed alike, can take Sweden’s lifestyle regarding water into account as the nation works to conserve its suitable water.

Brianna White

Photo: Flickr

Sweden's Global Sustainable Development

Since 2003, Sweden has worked to integrate policy for global development, in part of reaching the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The development of this policy aims to address world poverty and hunger in the world, with the cooperation of other countries. In 2010, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) recognized Sweden for its efficient work and support in ending world hunger. Year-to-date, Sweden’s contribution to WFP funding has exceeded $100 million. Sweden’s global sustainable development plan is called the 2030 Agenda and focuses on “an equitable and sustainable global development” and working with states in order to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development’s goal of ending global poverty.

The stated purpose of Sweden’s global sustainable development proposal is “a common and long-term sustainable environmental, social and economic development, linked to fighting poverty and hunger and inequality within and between countries”. It aims to ensure a better future and education, especially for the world’s children. Sweden’s efforts will continue to “build broad and innovative partnerships” all across the globe.

The U.N. Millennium Development’s policy wants to “develop an open trading and financial system that is rule-based and non-discriminatory,” and addresses the world’s most poor. This policy urges collaboration with other countries, in order to reach an agreement “on a common agenda for global development,” to aid the world. The U.N. Millennium Development’s and Sweden’s global sustainable development policy states “it is vital that the policy for global development be coordinated clearly, in exactly the same way as when a coherent policy for environmental issues and equality between men and women” is developed.

Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is not the sole purpose of Sweden’s global sustainable development policy. Other goals include ensuring environmental sustainability, such as clean water, and combating the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Sweden’s collaboration with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals creates a “concerted effort to improve the conditions affecting the lives of the poor” not just in their own country, but in countries around the world.

Since receiving recognition for their “outstanding support as a donor” of the WFP, Sweden’s global sustainable development has helped “where hunger is most acute.” Sweden has become one “of the first countries in the world to have a fully integrated policy” regarding global policy and development. Sweden’s global sustainable development policy has enabled direct efforts towards alleviating poverty, creating a better future for impoverished people around the world.

Jennifer Lightle

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in SwedenSweden is a nation in northern Europe that is home to about 10 million people. One of Sweden’s defining characteristics is its neutrality. Formerly a military power, it has been more than 200 years since Sweden has gone to war. This is not the nation’s only impressive accomplishment. Sweden’s other notable claim to fame is its robust economy. Overall, the economy is very strong, and measures have been enacted to reduce and alleviate the causes of poverty in Sweden.

Some statistics about Sweden’s economy:
• In 2016, the nation’s GDP was $511 billion
• The nation’s unemployment rate is about 6 percent

One strength that enables Sweden’s economy to achieve as much as it does is how easy the nation makes doing business. In fact, Forbes rated Sweden as the best country in the world for business in 2017. By comparison, the U.S., an undeniable economic power, is ranked 23rd. Some of the factors that Forbes took into consideration were innovation, taxes, technology, levels of bureaucracy and stock market performance.

Another factor that allows for Sweden’s economic success is its interest in defending and promoting gender equality. In 2016, the World Economic Forum created its Global Gender Gap Index and showed the progress that Sweden has made in this area. According to the index, Sweden trails just three nations, Iceland, Finland and Norway, in terms of gender equality. While economic gain may not be the first thing you think of when you improved gender equality, it really is the case. The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) believes in a very simple cause and effect relationship: “If the EU stepped up its efforts to improve gender equality, more jobs would be created, GDP per capita would increase and society would be able to adjust better to the challenges related to the ageing population.”

These and other actions have limited the causes of poverty in Sweden and ensure a good quality of life for its citizens.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Pixabay

Common Diseases in SwedenSweden is a Scandinavian country located in Northern Europe between Finland and Norway. The country has a population of 9.903 million people. Like any country, there are common diseases in Sweden that affect the population.

1. Cardiovascular Diseases

Ischemic heart disease is the most common form of heart disease in Sweden. The annual mortality rate from the diseases is 241.1 deaths per 100,000 people. A major contributor to ischemic heart diseases and other cardiovascular diseases is diabetes. About 6.9 percent of the population has diabetes. If current rates continue, 10.3 percent of Swedes will have diabetes by 2050. Major risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases include high blood pressure and cholesterol, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, poor eating habits and unhealthy weight. An estimated 31.1 percent of Swedes are physically inactive. Additionally, 59.2 percent are overweight and 22 percent are obese.

2. Respiratory Diseases

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common form of respiratory disease and frequently undiagnosed. About 500,000 people in Sweden have the disease. Every year, about 3,000 people die from COPD. Age is a contributor to the disease as well as smoking. Despite a COPD diagnosis, many people continue to smoke until death. Studies have found that of those who die from COPD, 40 percent of women and 33 percent of men are still smokers.

3. Neoplasms

In 2011, the most common cancer sites in men were prostate (32.2 percent), skin excluding melanoma (10.8 percent), colon (6.9 percent), lung (6.5 percent) and urinary organs (6.5 percent). In women, the most frequent sites are breast (30.3 percent), skin excluding melanoma (9.1 percent), colon (7.6 percent), lung (6.5 percent) and melanoma (5.9 percent). Despite these rates, recent developments have shown that cancer patients living in Sweden are less likely to die of cancer compared to those living in other European countries. Cancer survival rates in Sweden are 64.7 percent. In northern Europe, the rate is 59.6 percent.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

In 2012, an estimated 173,135 people in Sweden had dementia, accounting for 1.82 percent of the population. This is higher than the 1.55 percent average in the European Union. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia contribute to 69.1 deaths per 100,000 people every year. Dementia is more common with increasing age. Rarely are people below 65 diagnosed with dementia.

5. Sexually Transmitted Infections

People in Sweden are more likely to be treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea than in other European countries. A major contributor to this problem is the lack of contraception use. Studies show that 50 percent of young adults in Sweden do not use condoms with new partners and 30 percent do not use any contraception.

Acknowledging and understanding these common diseases in Sweden is important for public health policy efforts in the country.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SwedenAs the first country to legislate freedom of the press in 1766, Sweden has had a history of being a vanguard for human rights for hundreds of years. Human rights in Sweden are a top priority for both its citizens and its government. With its seat on the U.N. Security Council and the establishment of the Human Rights Watch offices within its borders, Sweden sets a remarkable example for other developed countries to follow for upholding human rights.

The strong human rights record in Sweden is due to its governmental determination in uplifting its humanitarian tenets, include fighting discrimination, protecting the rule of law, building democracy and strengthening freedom of expression. Government officials fervently believe in protecting human rights in Sweden because it promotes global development and national security. In 2008, the Swedish government took detailed measures towards eradicating discrimination as much as possible by mandating that human rights must be incorporated into all realms of foreign policy.

Sweden’s international leadership in human rights is a defining characteristic of the country’s view on foreign policy. Given that extensive laws protect Sweden’s citizens within its borders, the country’s current agenda is to protect these rights abroad and to introduce laws that protect those whose rights are not as guaranteed. Sweden assists various international organizations such as the United Nations in extending human rights to those living in developing countries.

In order to combat domestic discrimination, the Swedish government introduced the Swedish Discrimination Act of 2009. It counters discrimination in professional and educational sectors by allowing compensation to be given to those who have experienced discrimination. Although Sweden exerts significant effort to protect human rights, there are still certain demographics that its legislation is not protecting completely. Specific groups that have been targeted include Roma, African, and Muslim Swedes. However, the Swedish government is aware of these reports and strives to assist those who encounter discrimination. According to Sweden’s official website, “Human rights largely begin at home. As Sweden strives to walk its talk, it is important to ensure that the values promoted abroad are upheld at home.”

Kaitlin Hocker

Photo: Flickr

Feminist Foreign PolicyAccording to its website, the Swedish government gives gender equality high priority when it comes to foreign aid. Swedish leaders believe fighting for women’s rights is an essential step in establishing a secure and sustainable world. Consequently, they have launched a feminist foreign policy action plan to remove obstacles for women and girls in developing countries.

Since 2015, the nation has revisited and revitalized the initiative regularly. Goals for 2017 focus on increasing rights for female migrants and refugees; creating economic freedom for women via legislation; reducing violence against women; capitalizing on women’s potential to suppress conflict and encouraging sexual and reproductive rights.

A statement on the Government Offices of Sweden’s website details plans to service these goals. Leaders plan to allocate funds through relevant stakeholders, who will utilize aid to combat human rights abuses, endorse women’s financial and judicial empowerment and enact laws that provide women the same rights that men have.

Funds will also benefit initiatives to break down cultural associations between masculinity and violence, encouraging men to act as peacemakers in their homes and communities, as well as bolster movements to provide open access to contraceptives.

Canada has recently adopted a similar feminist foreign policy plan. Like Sweden, Canada recognizes that significant improvements in global poverty over the past few decades have not provided equal benefit to both men and women. To foster equal opportunities, Canada will strategically invest foreign aid in efforts seeking to improve women’s access to resources that can raise them from poverty.

A statement on the Government of Canada website acknowledges the challenges for women in developing countries. The difficulty lies in intersections of deeply-rooted inequality, conflict and consequences of climate change. The statement also highlights that with enough support, women can better help their families and communities.

Human dignity, security, climate action and inclusive governance comprise the core values of Canada’s plan. Their ultimate goal is to reduce poverty and promote economic advancement by empowering women to participate readily in politics, the workforce and their communities.

Canada’s statement also includes plans to involve men and boys by disputing the norms that reinforce gender-based injustice. They also provide an intersectional scope that includes the interests of people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, identities and abilities.

While timeworn power structures cause disproportionate struggles for destitute women and girls, leaders around the globe are eager to eradicate the imbalance. Feminist foreign policy is an essential step toward this goal.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

Since 1990, Sweden has been working toward reducing the acidification of lake water and reaching its renewable energy goal of 50 percent by 2020. The Scandinavian country ensures that the drinking water conforms to National Food Administration requirements before being released for public consumption.

The water quality in Sweden is currently at a very high standard. The lake water passes through various stages of purification before it is distributed as drinking water. In the initial stage of purification, the water is decontaminated with mechanical and chemical methods. The second stage leads the water through “slow sand filters that extract the remaining organic pollutants.” Once the water is purified of contaminants, it is processed into the distribution network.

According to ClimateChangePost (CCP), which publishes the most recent information on climate change and adaption, water quality in Sweden could face considerable consequences due to climate change. Half of Sweden’s local water supply is derived from the 95,700 lakes and watercourses that dominate its landscape. The other half is extracted from groundwater.

Climate change projections indicate that more frequent heavy rainfall will elevate levels of sewage overflow. The U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published an article identifying the link between extreme precipitation and the outbreak of waterborne disease. The study analyzed the time period 1948 to 1994 and demonstrates that “51 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks were preceded by incidences of heavy rain.” This is in part because contaminated raw water creates widespread health risks, such as microbiological growth.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that microscopic parasites, Cryptosporidium, were found in Östersund’s drinking water during an outbreak of gastroenteritis in November 2010. Cryptosporidium was found in 174 cases of the 700 cases of gastroenteritis. Located in northern Sweden, Östersund’s drinking water tested positive for Cryptosporidium.

On Mar. 30, 2017, the drinking water in Stockholm received a Certification of Quality by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The certificate states that the drinking water in Stockholm City is of “high and consistent quality.” The water is sourced from Lake Mälaren, Lovö and Norsborg.

With close monitoring of climate changes and scientific studies, it is hopeful Sweden’s water supply will continue to produce high-quality drinking water.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Hunger in Sweden
Sweden is a very fortunate country. Globally, Sweden ranks sixth, behind other Western European nations in keeping its citizens fed. There is virtually no hunger in Sweden, meaning it has very low levels of malnutrition and undernourishment as well as high access to safe, clean drinking water. Sweden, being so fortunate in its ability to maintain healthy citizens, has started The Hunger Project — a project designed to achieve a sustainable end to global hunger.

The Hunger Project was founded in 1977 in Sweden. It has become a global nonprofit dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty, declaring “our vision is a world where every woman, man and child leads a healthy, fulfilling life of self-reliance and dignity.” The Hunger Project now has many global allies, including in the United States. Some allied partners are Citi, the Ford Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) and the World Bank, to name a few.

Starting to fight global hunger in Sweden quickly moved the project to the areas of the world that needed the most help. The Hunger Project works in three main large areas: Africa, South Asia and Latin America. The Hunger Project uses three essential activities in order to carry out its mission. The first is mobilizing village clusters at the grassroots level to build self-reliance. The second is to empower women as key change agents. The third is to forge effective partnerships with local government.

The Hunger Project works in partnership with people in Africa, South Asia and Latin America in an effort to build “bottom-up” strategies. “At the heart of [their] methodology is our fundamental belief in people as the author of their own development.” The Hunger Project works with people fighting against hunger and poverty in an effort to create a self-sustainable lifestyle outside the hardships of hunger.

The Hunger Project programs reach 17.3 million people in 16,000 communities. The Hunger Project encourages local solutions and community-led results.

While there is not much hunger in Sweden, there is hunger worldwide, and Sweden is working with many other countries globally to help those in need. The Hunger Project believes that the end to world hunger can be achieved by 2030. By working hard and efficiently this goal can be realized.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr