Sweden remains one of the most egalitarian countries in terms of income distribution, and has one of the world’s lowest levels of poverty. It’s no surprise that Sweden consistently appears near the top of the Human Development Index, which ranks countries according to life expectancy, education and standard of living. While Swedes pay high taxes to maintain their prized social welfare system, they are no longer the highest-taxed people in the world.
Sweden has succeeded in creating a balance between social equality and economic success. Education is free (except for nursery schools and higher education, which are partly funded by the government), healthcare is cheap, childcare is universal and the streets are clean — but there is still the opportunity to control your own economic destiny.
The driving forces behind “the Swedish model” were the Social Democratic Party and the trade unions, although it has its roots in the 19th century when “poor relief laws” were passed. The Swedish model is still alive, if not as all-encompassing as it once was. There is greater privatization in the healthcare sector and the number of private schools is growing rapidly. But not even parties on the right of the political spectrum talk of dismantling the welfare state, as Sweden’s voters would simply not stand for it.
Sweden ranks as one of the world’s most gender-egalitarian countries, based on a firm belief that men and women should share power and influence equally. An extensive welfare system makes it easier for both sexes to balance work and family life. However, the Government recognises that there is still room for improvement in many areas.
Sweden has been praised internationally for providing a recipe for success in times of economic crisis. The Swedish welfare model seems to have stood the test of time. Now experts believe that multinational companies can help export successful Swedish ideas to other regions.
Sweden is striving to ensure that the next generation can take over a society where the major environmental problems have been solved. The “generational goal” involves 16 environmental quality objectives to be achieved by 2020.