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 about 10 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. Sweden uses the European Union (EU) definition of  “risk of poverty” which is when household income is 60% below the median income so about 1,620,000 Swedes are in this category.  Citizens with “low-income standards” are those whose household income is inadequate to afford necessary living costs. Currently, six percent of Sweden’s population (570,000 people) falls under the low-income standards category of poverty.
  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 as 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. Sweden’s unemployment rate declined in both 2017 and 2018,  but it increased in 2019. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.35%, which was a 0.35% decline from 2017. Primarily due to COVID-19, unemployment rates increased by 1.3% in 2020.
  4. Although Sweden abolished its minimum wage, its 110 trade unions, to which virtually all working Swedes belong,  use collective bargaining to set minimum wages in each sector. These provide 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 six 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 for all through secondary school. Tuition for higher public education is lower than in other Organisation for Cooperation for Economic Development (OECD) countries; bachelor’s degrees for national students are free.
  7. The free, universal healthcare in Sweden aids the country in fighting poverty. The healthcare system is highly tax-funded and provides equal access to substantial health benefits for all citizens. 
  8. Life expectancy in Sweden is one of the highest in the world: almost 85 years for women and 81 years for men. Municipal taxes and government grants fund elderly care in Sweden. 
  9. Sweden’s aim for equal opportunities benefits everyone, including the disabled. Government policies cover accessibility regulations for disabled citizens across transportation, housing and employment sectors. 
  10. Sweden is famous for its high taxes, but Swedes don’t mind paying them for a few reasons.  First, they trust the Swedish Tax Agency. Second, the country provides services for its citizens “from crade to grave – literally.”

As the Swedish government focuses 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