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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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