A Gazillion Ways Sweden Is Just Better

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Swedish Flag
Credits: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden seems to be a utopian society, with luxuries and standard practices that citizens of many other countries could only dream of. Sure, their tax rate is usually over 50%, but their relatively high income helps to ease that pain. Here are many, but surely not near all, of the reasons why Swedes enjoy one of the happiest and healthiest lifestyles in the world:

  • Sweden has the lowest income inequality in the world, with a Gini index of 23 in 2005.
  • Municipal music schools – that’s right, Sweden has non-mandatory, tuition-free music schools for youngsters, probably a big reason why Sweden continues to export popular music.
  • Many offices in Sweden use a “flex system,” meaning that one can come and go earlier or later on any given day depending on their needs; if something comes up one day, leave early and make it up the next. Simple and just amazing.
  • All employees, including many students, get five weeks of paid vacation a year!
  • More than 75% of mothers are working – the highest rate in the world.
  • Sweden has more public holidays, called ‘red days,’ in the months of May and June than Americans do all year, and that’s not including the typical 5 weeks of personal vacation leave allowed.
  • Klämdag – this is that ridiculous odd day of work in most other countries that falls between a weekend and a public holiday; many of Sweden’s employers just give these kinds of days off, as well.
  • 70% of Sweden’s workforce is unionized, making it one of the most unionized countries in the world.
  • Working parents are entitled to 480 days (16 months!) paid leave per child, and these parental leave days can be saved up and used whenever, until the child turns 8. Parents (both the mother and father) can share these days however they deem fit. Compensation for this time is 80% of normal working days.
  • There is paid paternal leave of two entire months.
  • When having second and subsequent children, free daycare is awarded to the others so that parents can concentrate time and resources of the newest member of the family.
  • Taxes are already calculated before payroll and are included in displayed prices when purchasing goods; at the end of the year, the Swedish government may just send out a quick summary of your tax situation, and if it looks good, you simply agree.
  • Swedes can report their annual taxes by SMS/text messages!
  • Swedish citizens have no university tuition.
  • Sweden is the most generous country at giving foreign aid per GDP, and the only nation that gives more than 1% of its GDP.
  • Fourteen days of paid sick leave is standard, and these can be used during a vacation, as well; compensation for this time is usually 80% of normal working days.
  • According to OECD statistics, Sweden spends more of its GDP on social services than any other country in the world.
  • All Swedish residents have access to subsidized health and dental care.
  • All education for Swedish residents is tax-financed from the age of six.
  • Fika – a socialized coffee (usually) break along with something sweet on the side.
  • Sweden was ranked third in the world for the inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (HDI) defined by the United Nations Development Programme over the last three years.
  • Swedes have one of the highest life-expectancy rates in the world, currently at about 81 years.
  • All elderly people are guaranteed to receive a basic pension.
  • Sweden is the number one exporter of music per GDP.
  • Sweden has the tightest employment gender gap in the world, with only about 4% more men in employment than women.
  • A 2007 UNICEF report on child well-being ranked Sweden as the best country in three categories: material well-being, health & safety, and behaviors & risks.
  • Daycare costs are based on family income and have a government-regulated ceiling.
  • Swedes spend the most time in tertiary education, with 40% of women and 32% of men aged 25 – 64 participating in education or training.
  • Purchased products are guaranteed for one year by the retailer, including clothing and many services.
  • Allemansrätten allows any Swede to camp or hike through property, whether public or private.
  • Sweden was the first country in Europe to set up a national park, back in 1909.

 

Christian "Krzysiek" Eilers is a twenty-something who constantly likes to look up the next flight out of JFK. His life goal is to visit every country in the world; as a young adult working full-time, he often settles on visiting the near countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean, knocking these off the list as it is less of a financial strain than Europe or Asia. Caffeine is his vice, and if he doesn't have a coffee in his hands, then it's probably a green tea. A native of New York City, when he is not traveling, he can find an abundance of cultural influences right in his own city, enough to keep him satisfied until the next country's beckon cannot be ignored any longer.

1 COMMENT

  1. Not bad, but a few things are not correct:
    – Only 390 days at 80% income, the remaining 90 are much lower.
    – There is formally no such thing as paternal leave, instead 60 days are reserved for each parent and cannot be used by the other.
    – Swedes cannot report their taxes by SMS, but use that to accept the taxes the tax authority have calculated. Probably 90 to 95% don’t need to make adjustments, and can do this. (There is also an app! Or you can enter a code on the internet, where one can also make most adjustements.)
    – While Swedes have mostly free health care including medication (there are some co-pay), dental care is NOT included. Dental problems can get VERY expensive.
    – I don’t know where the 14 days of paid sick leave comes from – there is no such limitation. And being able to be home with pay when you are sick is not ‘standard'; it is required by law. Note however that the first sick day in a five day period is unpaid.
    – For production error (an error present in the product when you purchased it) you can demand to have it repaired or replaced for three years. Again this is the law. It is the retailer that have sold that must repair/replace it. Sometimes the retailer or producer will give a one year guarantee that may be more generous than what the law requires.

    Some other Sweden facts:
    – When a child is born the father can take 10 paid days off – this is not counted as parental leave.
    – During their paid vacation, swedes will be paid their normal monthly salary plus – as required by law – 0.43% of that salary per vacation day, or about 12% extra. Someone I know had the small company he worked at purchased by an American firm and got a US HR manager. The concept that the law required more pay during vacation had to be explained repeatedly
    – Sweden have the following national holidays which can be on Monday to Friday: New years day, January 6th, Good Friday, Easter Monday, 1st of May (Workers day), Ascension Day, National Day (June 6th), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Many (most?) also get Christmas Eve, New years Eve and Midsommarafton (third Friday in June) off.
    – Swedes have a 40h work week excluding lunch, which means Swedes work more hours per year than most other western European countries.
    – Apart from the parental leave were I belive Sweden is currently ‘best’ – and possibly the public music schools! – each of the perks found in this article can probably be found in an even better version in some other European country.

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