Sweden’s economic and social system has lifted the country to one of the highest standards of living in the world. Tax-financed education and health care contribute to making Sweden a role model for many other countries.
The average Swedish family has 1.9 children. Photo: Eva the Weaver/Flickr
To illustrate Sweden’s economic and social system, often referred to as the “Swedish Model,” we want to introduce you to the average Swedish family, the Johanssons: Anna Maria, 42, Lars Erik, 39, Simon, 15, and Emma, 12. This family, their names and their life is a fictional construction, based on statistical averages for Sweden from 2006 as reported by Statistics Sweden as well as other facts. For example, 272,594 Swedes are named Johansson, which makes this the most common surname.
The Johanssons live in the small city of Växjö (280 miles, or 450 kilometers, south-west of Stockholm) in a house with a tax-assessed value of SEK 963,000, which equals around 75 percent of the market value. They have chosen to live in Växjö mainly because of the city’s focus on sustainability and its proximity to nature. More than four-fifths of Swedes live in cities, and two-thirds live in houses, one-third in apartments.
The Johanssons also have a summer house in the country, along with half of the 35 to 44-year-olds. Their silver-colored Volvo takes them to and from the summer house.
With their two children, the Johanssons have slightly more than the 2008 average of 1.9 children per woman. The fact that Lars has been married to Anna for fourteen years also sets him apart from the unmarried majority of 39-year-old men in Sweden. Many unmarried Swedes are in a sambo relationship, that is, live together with a partner without being married. And did you know that almost half of the Swedish households are single households? The reason why Anna is older than Lars in our average couple is that women have a higher life expectancy. In real life, it is actually more common that the man is one or two years older than the woman.
Anna works in the care sector, earning SEK 20,900 per month. Lars makes SEK 26,400 per month in the production industry. After taxes, they have a monthly income of SEK 35,600 together. Add to this a tax-exempt child allowance from the state of SEK 1,050 per month and child. Emma and Simon in turn get a monthly allowance from their parents of SEK 220 and SEK 600, respectively. (Simon gets more simply because he is older, not because he is a boy.)
Together, Swedish parents are entitled to 480 paid days of parental leave. Photo: Helena Nimbratt/Image Bank Sweden
When Simon and Emma were babies, in 1991 and 1994, both Anna and Lars used their right to parental leave. Today parents are entitled to as much as 480 paid days at home with each of their children; back then, the period was slightly shorter. The signal is clear: it is important for both parents to be able to combine a career with having children. By implementing generous rules and benefits, Swedish society has made this possible.
A male employee announcing that he wants to go on paternity leave hardly raises any eyebrows anymore, but he might, on the other hand, be scowled at should he decide not to use his right to parental leave. In 2008, men used around 20 percent of the total parental leave—more than twice as much as when Simon was born in 1991.
Rikard Lagerberg & Emma Randecker
Rikard Lagerberg is a writer and editor who has spent most of his adult life in the US and in Ireland. Returning to Sweden he discovered a new curiosity for his native country.
Editor and writer Emma Randecker has spent most of her life in Sweden, apart from a couple of longer excursions to France and the UK. It was, in particular, a longing for the changing Swedish seasons that made her go back home after a few years.
Both Rikard and Emma work at the Swedish Institute.
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