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Center Publication

Sweden—Public Policy

by Karin E. Anell

March 2010—Sweden, a country that experienced dramatic growth following WWII, is the largest welfare state in the world. Dubbed “The Swedish Model,” the country’s extensive social welfare system provides public health care and social insurance for all citizens, catering to them from “cradle-to-grave.”

Highlights from this policy brief include:

  • Sweden’s current rate of employment is 74.3% (65.9% in the EU) although, like most of its European neighbors, is facing an aging population:
    • Approximately 18% of the population is over the age of 65 (12.7% in the US).
    • There is a low proportion of people who are of working age, ages 20-64.
    • 59% of Sweden’s population was of working age in 2001, however, and this population is expected to dwindle by over 50% in the coming years.
  • Sweden has one of the highest female labor participation rates in the world; 72% of women of working age are employed. The EU average is 58%.
  • Almost 80% of the Swedish workforce is unionized. Membership is high, at 71%:
    • The largest union, with approximately 1.6 million members, represents manual workers.
    • The second largest represents non-manual workers and has an estimated 1.175 million members.
    • The smallest federation represents graduate employees, with a membership of 588,000 members.
  • There is no legislation on minimum wage; wages are basically set by collective bargaining.
  • A large proportion of Swedes work part-time (27.3% in July 2009).
  • Most full time employees have more than 25 days paid vacation. The average number in 2008 was 33 days, significantly higher than the EU 15 and Norway of 26.5 days.

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