|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Monarch||King Carl XVI Gustaf|
|Prime minister||Stefan Löfven|
|Area||173,732 sq mi|
|GDP per capita||$32,200 (2006)|
Sweden is a country in Scandinavia. The capital city is Stockholm, which is also the largest city. Sweden has approximately 9 million inhabitants, with an area of 173,750 square miles (450,000 square kilometers).
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The prime minister of Sweden is Fredrik Reinfeldt, leader of the Moderates. The Swedish parliament has 349 seats. Carl XVI Gustaf is the current king.
Sweden has one of the world's highest life expectancies. The country counts at least 17,000 Sami among its population. About one-fifth of Sweden's population are immigrants or have at least one foreign-born parent. The largest immigrant groups are from Finland, Iraq, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Norway, Denmark, and Poland. This reflects Nordic immigration, earlier periods of labor immigration, and later decades of refugee and family immigration.
Swedish is a Germanic language related to Danish and Norwegian but different in pronunciation and orthography. English is by far the leading foreign language, particularly among students and those under age 50.
Sweden has an extensive child-care system that guarantees a place for all young children from 2–6 years old in a public day-care facility. From ages 7–16, children attend compulsory comprehensive school. After completing the ninth grade, 90% attend upper secondary school for either academic or technical education.
Swedes benefit from an extensive social welfare system, which provides for childcare and maternity and paternity leave, a ceiling on health care costs, old-age pensions, and sick leave among other benefits. Parents are entitled to a total of 480 days' paid leave between birth and the child's eighth birthday, with 60 of those days reserved specifically for the father.
- Population (November 2007): 9,179,731.
- Annual population growth rate (2007): 0.76%.
- Ethnic groups: Indigenous Swedes, ethnic Finns, ethnic Sami.
- Immigrants: Total: 491,996 (20% of total population); Finns, Iraqis, ex-Yugoslavia nationals, Iranians, Norwegians, Danes, Greeks, and Turks.
- Religions: Lutheran (87%), Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim.
- Education: Years compulsory—9. Literacy—99%.
- Health: Infant mortality rate (2006)--2.80/1,000. Life expectancy—men 78.70 years, women 82.94 years.
- Work force (4.82 million, 2007 est.): Services—70.7%; industry—28.2%; agriculture—1.1%. Unemployment (2007)--5.2%.
- Public holidays (2008): January 1 (New Year's Day); January 6 (Epiphany); March 21 (Good Friday); March 22 (Easter); March 23 (Easter Sunday); March 24 (Easter Monday); May 1 (May Day and Ascension Day); May 11 (Whit Sunday); June 6 (National Day); June 21 (Midsummer Holiday); November 1 (All Saints' Day); December 25 (Christmas); December 26 (Boxing Day).
The eve of a holiday is as important—or more so—than the holiday itself. Most Swedes have the day off, including those working in the civil service, banks, public transport, hospitals, shops, and the media. Others have at least a half-day. This applies especially to Midsummer's Eve, All Saints' Day Eve, and Christmas Eve. The eve of May Day is called Valborg Eve or St Walpurgis. When a holiday falls on a Thursday many Swedes have the following Friday off in addition. When a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday it is not taken on the following Monday.
Religion and Sweden
Sweden is the most atheistic country in the world and the website adherents.com reports that 46 - 85% of Swedes are agnostics/atheists/non-believers in God. Sweden also has the 3rd highest rate of belief in evolution as far as Western World nations (see: Evolutionary belief and bestiality).
Christianity in Sweden
80% of the inhabitants belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden named The Swedish Church (Svenska kyrkan in Swedish). The number is so high because children born to members of the church automatically become lifelong members. This church is somewhat unique because it has decided to agree to perform a blessing ceremony for homosexuals engaging in registered partnership (full marriage for same sex couples is a matter of debate in Sweden). This Church is considered a liberal Church and does not protest against abortions, divorce, and other conservative issues. About 5% of the Swedish population belong to "conservative" Christian churches. Regardless of the church membership polls suggest that 46-85% of Swedes to be either agnostics, atheists or non-believers of gods.
In the 1960s the government decided to reduce education about Christianity in public schools.
In 2000, the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the government were separated. Before that, all children were born members of the church, except those whose parents took an active decision against it and both left the church. Even if a child were not christened, he or she became a member for life, having to pay a small tax to the church.
In 2005 a Swedish Pentecostal preacher, Åke Green, was charged with, and found guilty of hate speech, when preaching Biblical teachings regarding homosexuality. He was imprisoned for one month, but then acquitted by the High Court and the Supreme Court.
Abortion in Sweden
See also: Sexual immorality and Sweden
Sweden provides taxpayer-subsidized, no-questions-asked abortions during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy. During the following four weeks, women are required to get special permission for abortions. Swedish politicians are currently discussing whether foreign women should be allowed to have an late term abortion in Sweden, and it is possible that the parliament will vote in favor of that proposition.
Popular government in Sweden rests upon ancient tradition. The Swedish parliament (Riksdag) stems from tribal courts (Ting) and the election of kings in the Viking age. It became a permanent institution in the 15th century. Sweden's government is a limited constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Executive authority is vested in the cabinet, which consists of a prime minister and 22 ministers who run the government departments. The present Alliance for Sweden government, led by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, came to power in September 2006. King Carl XVI Gustaf (Bernadotte) ascended to the throne on September 15, 1973. His authority is formal, symbolic, and representational. The unicameral Riksdag has 349 members, popularly elected every 4 years, and is in session generally from September through mid-June.
Sweden has three levels of government: national, regional, and local. In addition, there is the European level which has acquired increasing importance following Sweden's entry into the EU. At parliamentary elections and municipal and county council elections held every four years, voters elect those who are to decide how Sweden is governed and administered.
Sweden is divided into 18 counties (lan), 18 county councils (landsting), 290 municipalities (kommuner), and 2 semi-independent regions. Each county (lan) is headed by a governor, who is appointed by the central government. The counties coordinate administration with national political goals for the county. The county council (landsting) is a regional government that is popularly elected with particular responsibility for health and medical care. The municipalities are local governments that deal with issues such as education, public transportation and social welfare. Elected municipal councils are headed by executive committees roughly analogous to the boards of commissioners found in some U.S. cities.
Swedish law, drawing on Germanic and Roman law, is neither as codified as in France and other countries influenced by the Napoleonic Code, nor as dependent on judicial practice and precedents as in the United States. Legislative and judicial institutions include, in addition to the Riksdag, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, the Labor Court, the Law Council, District Courts and Courts of Appeal, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the parliamentary ombudsmen and the Chancellor of Justice who oversee the application of laws with particular attention to abuses of authority.
At the national level, the Swedish people are represented by the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) which has legislative powers. Proposals for new laws are presented by the government which also implements decisions taken by the Riksdag. The government is assisted in its work by the government offices, comprising a number of ministries, and some 300 central government agencies and public administrations.
Principal Government Officials
- Head of State—King Carl XVI Gustaf
- Prime Minister (Head of Government)--Stefan Löfven
- Minister for Finance—Anders Borg
- Minister for the Environment—Andreas Carlgren
- Minister for Justice—Beatrice Ask
- Minister for Foreign Affairs—Carl Bildt
- Minister for EU Affairs—Cecilia Malmstrom
- Minister for Social Security—Cristina Husmark Pehrsson
- Minister for Agriculture—Eskil Erlandsson
- Minister for International Development Co-operation—Gunilla Carlsson
- Minister for Health and Social Affairs—Goran Hagglund
- Minister for Higher Education and Research—Lars Leijonborg
- Minister for Education—Jan Bjorklund
- Minister for Culture—Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth
- Minister for Elderly Care and Public Health—Maria Larsson
- Minister for Local Government and Financial Markets—Mats Odell
- Minister for Enterprise and Energy—Maud Olofsson
- Minister for Defense—Sten Tolgfors
- Minister for Integration and Gender Equality—Nyamko Sabuni
- Minister for Trade—Ewa Bjorling
- Minister for Employment—Sven Otto Littorin
- Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy—Tobias Billstrom
- Minister for Infrastructure—Asa Torstensson
- Ambassador to the United Nations—Anders Liden
Ordinary general elections to the Swedish parliament are held every fourth year on the third Sunday in September. County council and municipal council elections take place at the same time. The last elections were held on September 14, 2014. There is a barrier rule intended to prevent very small parties from gaining representation in the parliament. A party must thus receive at least 4% of the votes in the entire country or 12% in a single electoral district to qualify for any seats.
Elections to the Riksdag were held on September 17, 2006. The Alliance for Sweden (a coalition of four center-right parties—the Moderate Party, the Liberal Party, the Christian Democrat, and the Center Party) won 178 of the 349 seats, securing Moderate Fredrik Reinfeldt the position of Prime Minister. The 2006 election results for Sweden's major parties were as follows: the Social Democratic Party (34.99%; 130 seats), the Moderate Party (26.23%; 97 seats), the Center Party (7.88%; 29 seats), the Liberal Party (7.54%; 28 seats), the Christian Democrats (6.59%; 24 seats), the Left Party (5.85%; 22 seats), and the Green Party (5.24%; 19 seats).
The Social Democratic Party has a base of blue-collar workers and public sector employees. It derives much of its power from strong links with the National Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), which represents blue-collar workers. The party program combines a commitment to social welfare programs and government direction of the economy. The Social Democratic Party has led the government for 65 of the 76 years since 1932; the 2006 election ended its most recent term of 12 consecutive years in office.
The Moderate Party emphasizes personal freedom, free enterprise, and reduction of the public-sector growth rate, while still supporting most of the social benefits introduced since the 1930s. The party also supports a strong defense and Sweden's membership in the European Union (EU). Its voter base is urban business people and professionals, but the party also attracts young voters, main-street shop owners, and, to some extent, blue-collar workers. Moderate Party Leader Reinfeldt followed an election strategy of remodeling his party as "New Moderates," moving away from the party's right-wing, upper-class roots to appeal to a large middle ground of voters, and successfully winning over many who had until then supported the SDP, as well as others who had previously voted for the smaller, non-socialist parties. Reinfeldt was instrumental in uniting the previously divided four parties of the center-right opposition. The Alliance offered alternative policies focusing on job creation that persuaded the voters.
The Center Party maintains close ties to rural Sweden. The main priorities of the party include providing a sound economic climate for business and job creation, climate change and environmental concerns (including nuclear power), and health and welfare issues.
The Left Party, formerly the Communist Party, focuses on feminist issues, employment in the public sector, and the environment. It opposes privatization, cuts in public expenditure, Swedish participation in NATO activities, and EU membership. Its voter base consists mainly of young people, public sector employees, feminists, journalists, and former social democrats.
The Christian Democrat Party is conservative and value-oriented. Its voter base is primarily among members of conservative churches and rural populations. Christian Democrats seek government support for families and better ethical practices to improve care for the elderly.
The Liberal Party's platform is "social responsibility without socialism," which includes a commitment to a free-market economy combined with comprehensive Swedish social welfare programs. Foreign aid, education and women's equality also are popular issues. The Liberal Party base is mainly centered in educated middle-class voters.
The Green Party is a leftist environmentalist party that attracts young people. The Greens support a phasing-out of nuclear energy in Sweden and hope to replace it with alternative, environmentally friendly energy sources.
The next Swedish election for parliament is scheduled to be held in 2010. In 2009 Sweden will vote for its representatives to the European Parliament.
Swedish foreign policy is based on the premise that national security is best served by staying free of alliances in peacetime in order to remain neutral in the event of war. In 2002, Sweden revised its security doctrine. The new security doctrine still states that "Sweden pursues a policy of non-participation in military alliances," but permits cooperation in response to threats against peace and security. The Swedish Government devotes particular attention to issues of disarmament, arms control, and nuclear nonproliferation and has contributed importantly to UN and other international peacekeeping efforts, including the NATO-led peacekeeping forces in the Balkans (KFOR). Sweden also contributes to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and assumed leadership of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar e-Sharif in March 2006.
Sweden participates actively in the United Nations and its specialized and related agencies, including the World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (USESCO), World Health Organization (WHO), and others including as a member of the Security Council in 1997-98. In January 1995, Sweden became a full member of the European Union after a referendum in late 1994 indicated that 52.3% of participants wanted to join. Sweden became a member in part due to its increasing isolation outside the economic framework of the Maastricht Treaty. Sweden is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) and participates in numerous international peacekeeping operations under UN auspices. Sweden also cooperates closely with its Nordic neighbors, formally in economic and social matters through the Nordic Council of Ministers and informally in political matters through direct consultation.
Swedish governments do not consider that nonalignment precludes taking outspoken positions in international affairs. Government leaders have favored national liberation movements that enjoy broad support among developing world countries, with notable attention to Africa. During the Cold War, Sweden was suspicious of the superpowers, which it saw as making decisions affecting small countries without always consulting those countries. With the end of the Cold War, that suspicion has lessened somewhat, although Sweden still chooses to remain nonaligned.
Sweden is a highly industrialized country. Agriculture, once accounting for nearly all of Sweden's economy, now employs less than 2% of the labor force. Extensive forests, rich iron ore deposits, and hydroelectric power are the natural resources which, through the application of technology and efficient organization, have enabled Sweden to become a leading producing and exporting nation.
The Swedish economic picture has brightened significantly since the severe recession in the early 1990s. Growth has been strong in recent years, with an annual average GDP growth rate of 2.5% for the period 2000-2004 and 2.7% in 2005. The inflation rate was low in 2006, with an annual average inflation rate of about 1.5%, but unemployment remains a stubborn problem. The inflation rate rose to 3.5% in December 2007. The unemployment rate held steady in recent years at about 5% and in 2005 reached 7.8%. Unemployment in 2007 reached 5.2%. Since the mid-1990s, Sweden's export sector has grown significantly as the information technology (IT) industry, telecommunications, and services have overtaken traditional industries such as steel, paper, and pulp. The overall current-account surplus has traditionally been much smaller than the merchandise trade balance, as Sweden has generally run a deficit on trade in services, net income flows, and unrequited transfers. However, since 2003 this has not been the case, as the services balance swung into surplus in 2003 and improved further in 2004 and 2005. In addition, the income account also swung from deficit into surplus in 2003, before slipping back to register small deficits in 2004 and 2005. Although the transfers balance remained in deficit, mainly as a result of Sweden's contributions to the EU budget, the overall current-account surplus was larger than the trade surplus in 2003-05. Most categories of services exports produced an improvement over this period, but the biggest contribution came from business services exports, followed by transportation and royalties and license fees.
During 2005 real GDP rose by 2.5%, 3.4% in 2006, and 2.9% (est.) in 2007. The government budget improved dramatically from a record deficit of more than 12% of GDP in 1993 to a surplus of 0.9% of GDP in 2006. The new, strict budget process with spending ceilings set by parliament, and a constitutional change to an independent Central Bank, have greatly improved policy credibility. This can be seen in the long-term interest rate margin versus the Euro, which is negligible. From the perspective of longer-term fiscal sustainability, the long-awaited reform of old-age pensions entered into force in 1999. This entails a far more robust system vis-à-vis adverse demographic and economic trends, which should keep the ratio of total pension disbursements to the aggregate wage bill close to 20% in the decades ahead. Taken together, both fiscal consolidation and pension reform have brought public finances back on a sustainable footing. Gross public debt, which jumped from 43% of GDP in 1990 to 78% in 1994, stabilized around the middle of the 1990s and has been decreasing in recent years. In 2007 public debt was about 35.6% of GDP. These figures show excellent improvement of the Swedish economy since the crisis of the early 1990s.
Eighty percent of the Swedish labor force is unionized. For most unions there is a counterpart employers' organization for businesses. The unions and employer organizations are independent of both the government and political parties, although the largest federation of unions, the National Swedish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), always has maintained close links to the largest political party, the Social Democrats. There is no fixed minimum wage by legislation. Instead, wages are set by collective bargaining.
- GDP (2007, purchasing power parity): $308.9 billion. GDP (2007, official exchange rate): $384.1 billion.
- Annual growth rate (3rd quarter 2007): 2.5%.
- Per capita income (2006, purchasing power parity): $33,897.
- Inflation rate (December 2007): 2.2%.
- Natural resources: Forests, hydroelectric power, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, gold, silver, tungsten, uranium, arsenic, feldspar, timber.
- Agriculture (2006, 2.2% of GDP): Products—dairy products, meat, grains (barley, wheat), sugar beets, potatoes, wood. Arable land—6 million acres.
- Industry (2006, 38% of GDP): Types—machinery/metal products (iron and steel), electrical equipment, aircraft, paper products, precision equipment (bearings, radio and telephone parts, armaments), wood pulp and paper products, processed foods.
- Services (2006, 59.8% of GDP): Types—telecommunications, computer equipment, biotech.
- Trade: Exports (2006)--$148.8 billion. Types—machinery, transport equipment, motor vehicles, wood products, paper, pulp, chemicals, iron and steel products, and manufactured goods. Major trading partners, exports (2007)--Germany 9.9%, U.S. 9.3%, Norway 9.1%, U.K. 7.2%, EU total 59.7%. *Imports (2006)--$127.3 billion. Types—machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel, foodstuffs, clothing. Major trading partners, imports (2007)--Germany 18.6%, Denmark 8.9%, Norway 8.5%, U.K. 6.9%, Netherlands 6.1%, Finland 6.0%, France 4.9%.
Some Notable Swedes
- Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite; founded the Nobel Prize
- Anders Celsius, inventor of the world standard Celsius scale.
- Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnaeus) inventor of the modern system of classifying all lifeforms.
- Greta Garbo, actress
- ABBA - 1970's rock group comprised of Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog. The forth member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad is from Norway.
- Dag Hammarskjöld, UN leader
- Astrid Lindgren
- Fredrik Ljungberg
- Henrik Larsson
- Stellan Skarsgård
- Saint Bridgid
- Lars Magnus Ericsson
- Gustavus Adolphus (king, founder of Gothenburg etc., died 1632 in the Thirty Years' War)
- Björn Borg, tennis player
- Olof Palme, prime minister
- Ingemar Bergman, actress
- Jussi Bjoeling
- Laurentius Petri, archbishop and reformer
- Lewi Pethrus (1884–1974), founder of the Swedish Pentecostal movement
- Olaus Petri, reformer
- Nathan Söderblom, archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate
- Erik Trolle, bishop and statesman
- Kettil Karlsson Vasa, bishop and statesman
- Saint Birgitta (1303–1373), patron saint of Europe
- Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), writer, mystic and philosopher
- Peter Stormare, actor
- Victoria of Sweden
- Sweden (Eyewitness Travel Guides) by DK Publishing (2005) excerpt and text search
- Frommer's Sweden ed. by Danforth Prince (2009) excerpt and text search
- Lonely Planet Sweden ed. by Carolyn Bain and Graeme Cornwallis (2003) excerpt and text search
- The Rough Guide to Sweden ed. by James Proctor and Neil Roland (2006) excerpt and text search
- Hancock, M. Donald Politics in Europe: An Introduction to the Politics of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden (2006) excerpt and text search
- Svenska Kyrkan
- source for much of this article; not copyright
- Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics(Zuckerman, 2005)
- Photo: Evolution Less Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries, Study Finds