The Swedish Life

By Curtis Hewston

I stumbled upon this intriguing Web document this afternoon, called Amusing facts about Sweden, Swedish Culture, and Swedish Governance, compiled by an American. The “American” is the young, impressively credentialed Dr. David Black-Schaffer, who in 2008 received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford, where he met and married a Swedish woman who was studying for her Ph.D. in applied physics.

According to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a 34-nation cooperative based in Paris, Sweden ranks second (to France) in social spending percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP). Whereas the United States spends a lowly 7.2 percent of GDP on social well-being, Sweden spends 27.3 percent. (You can read all about the study here, at Business Insider.)

Let’s take a look at some random aspects of the quality of life in Sweden, as provided by Dr. Black-Schaffer, courtesy the Swedish government (i.e., the taxpayer):

  • As of 2004 you can pay your Swedish taxes by sending an SMS message from your cell phone.
  • The government sends you a completely filled out tax form and if it looks good you just go online and click okay to pay your taxes.
  • Taxes are generally between 50 and 70% of your income. (Of course your employer already pays the full amount of your salary to the government in taxes before you even get anything.)
  • Companies must lay off employees in first-in-last-out order when they are downsizing.
  • You can take sick leave during your vacation if you are ill.
  • Parents get a total of 13 months of paid maternity leave and the father is required to take at least 1 month of it. (There has been a discussion about changing this to 15 months and requiring the father and mother to each take 5 and then split the last 5 as they feel appropriate.)
  • Parental leave can be used to take off time for parenting classes before your child is born.
  • Parents can save up their maternity leave for more than 5 years (i.e., use it for doctor’s appointments, school visit days, etc.).
  • Daycare cost is based on your family income with a government imposed maximum. (Currently about 1/10th as much as in the U.S.!)
  • If you have a new child, your other children get a month of free daycare so you can concentrate on the new one.
  • All employees (including graduate students) get 5 weeks of paid vacation a year.
  • All employers (as of 2004) are required to provide free massage.
  • Yearly car inspections include comprehensive safety checks as well as pollution controls.
  • Car insurance is flat-rate depending on the deductibles (i.e., no “comprehensive” vs. “collision” vs. “uninsured” vs. “medical”), and liability insurance is not required.
  • The transportation department of the Swedish government works actively to reduce the number of traffic deaths each year to zero. (Mainly by reducing the speed limits.)
  • The government installs elk fences along the sides of large roads to prevent elk from wandering into traffic.
  • Any product you purchase is guaranteed for 1 year, and the retailer must exchange it if it fails in that time. (This includes things like clothes and shoes.)
  • All non-military property that is not fenced in, or is not a farm or someone’s personal garden is open to anyone for hiking through or camping for one night.
  • Roughly 20% of the country’s police stations close during the summer since everyone is off on vacation.
  • Swedish university students are required to pay a membership fee in the student union, but no tuition.
  • American textbooks are cheaper in Sweden than in the U.S.
  • Privacy is taken so seriously that putting up video cameras in laundry rooms to catch vandals is illegal.

Many a conservative will complain about the smothering influence of the “nanny state,” the ills of a regulated economy and all that, but I, for one, look to Sweden fondly.

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  1. Posted June 15, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    If only they had a bit warmer weather.

    My Uncle, whois is from the PacNorWet US married and lives in Tromso, Norway. He loves it for the massive amounts of midnight golf he can play in the Summer.

    I traveled to Europe a lot as a Kid. I’d like to settle somewhere on the Med. Laid back…

  2. Posted June 15, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    Regardless of the benefits, I have issues with working half my life for the government (though much is given to society in general). That 50 to 70% tax rate is pretty stiff. On the other hand, in the US we pay about that in the sum total of taxes (fed + state + local + sales taxes + gas tax + huge telephone taxes and many of them + fees for auto reg, mandatory insurance + certain food taxes on take-out + some tax when you sell your home + taxes on inheritance + soon, mandatory health insurance). What do we get for it? Reduction of constitutional rights and three wars and Bush sending $6 billion in unmarked bills to Iraq. I think the universe is going to try rebooting this movie series because it’s gone into fail.

  3. Posted June 15, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink

    I’m guessing it has more to do with the weather. I live in Western Washington which has a famously gloomy climate and the highest suicide rate in the country. Or maybe it really is because they don’t have the privilege of paying for tuition. :)

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