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Agency blasts Sweden's 'most expensive' ranking

Agency blasts Sweden's 'most expensive' ranking

Published: 11 Jan 2010 14:47 GMT+01:00
Updated: 11 Jan 2010 14:47 GMT+01:00

“It’s nonsense to list Sweden as more expensive than Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, and Luxembourg,” the Swedish Institute’s Thomas Carlhed told The Local.

“When you compare the results to other indexes, it’s really breaking a pattern…it’s really questionable.”

The comments by Carlhed, who heads up the Swedish Institute’s department for branding and coordination, come just days after the publication of a Quality of Life Index by International Living magazine ranked Sweden 30th out of 200 countries in terms of quality of life.

Sweden’s overall quality of life score of 71 put it on a par with Panama and Poland, and below Uruguay and Lithuania.

A representative from International Living confirmed for The Local that “Sweden has the highest cost of living and is the most expensive country in the world”.

But Carlhed, whose agency works to promote Sweden's image abroad, disputes the magazine’s findings, pointing to several other indices which look more favourably on Sweden’s price levels.

According to a 2007 comparison, for example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found Sweden to be the 12th most costly country as measured by real GDP per person and tenth most expensive in terms of real actual individual consumption per head.

And 2008 figures from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, show price levels in Sweden to have the fifth highest price levels among countries in the European Union.

Even the Economist magazine’s “Big Mac Index”, which uses the price of the famous McDonald’s burger as a gauge to compare price levels, puts prices in Sweden far below those of neighbouring Norway.

“Obviously, they’ve never been to Oslo to buy a hamburger on the Karl Johan,” said Carlhed, referring to the Norwegian capital’s main thoroughfare.

“Anyone who has knows it costs a fortune.”

While the Swedish Institute plans to investigate the sources used by International Living in putting together the index, Carlhed explained that, even if an error is uncovered, it will be hard to undo the damage caused to Sweden’s brand by the index.

“When a country is seen as expensive, people are less likely to come and visit on holiday,” he said.

“We are also dependent on workers and students from abroad, who may have second thoughts if they have the image that it’s so expensive here and the quality of life isn’t so great.”

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

15:09 January 11, 2010 by brooklynmom2
they can duke it out all they want with their indexes and data, i'm from new yorkcity and sweden's quality of life is heaven compared to where i'm from, and i had a pretty posh life there!
15:16 January 11, 2010 by Rick Methven
This stupid magazine that claims to get its data from quote " official sources" should be forced to justify the huge change from last year to this and when they are proven to be be biased and inaccurate They should be forced to publish the revised figures in every publication that has published the false figures
15:23 January 11, 2010 by Thebinary1
Or its better to ignore them. The magazine has pretty much undone itself with this misinformation and their steadfastness.
15:34 January 11, 2010 by sherkovic
sweden more expensive than norway? hmm thats too funkyy..
15:42 January 11, 2010 by Rick Methven
"Obviously, they've never been to Oslo to buy a hamburger on the Karl Johan," said Carlhed, referring to the Norwegian capital's main thoroughfare."

Obviously they have never heard of Sweden and could not find it on a map
15:47 January 11, 2010 by Great Scott
Its like all media, hardly anthing is true. The media print rubbish just to make money, its the fools that read and believe it that gives them the power to continue.

Media should be punished for spectulated storyies. They are no different to banks, just telling lies all the time. This stupid skandia ad below is very annoying.
15:51 January 11, 2010 by skatsouf
completely non-scientific rubbish, screw that magazine
16:00 January 11, 2010 by BrittInSweden
I find it amusing that this response isn't so much about it being totally wrong more of a it is wrong because we are cheaper than Norway.

I know there is rivalry between Sweden and Norway but come on...
16:33 January 11, 2010 by Keith #5083
Is there another Sweden in the universe that they also haven't visited? I'm a Brit and I have LOVED it here for 10+ years. I wouldn't willingly live anywhere else - and I have been a few places in my life. I even love this 'real Swedish winter we are having at the moment.

We have had (in the 10 years) visitors from: U.K.,USA, Spain,France, India, Greece, Holland, Germany, Russia, Siberia,New Zealand,Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland.....they ALL love it here. So I am not alone in my view that Sweden is a wonderful place to live
16:57 January 11, 2010 by Rick Methven
@Keith5083

You are not alone

Heres another Brit that concurs with your view of Sweden
16:58 January 11, 2010 by Celc
@brooklynmom2 - I'd be really interested in a comparison, I've been wanting to live in NY for a while as I find the city seem to have an abundance of things I like but I don't have much of an understanding of the quality of life for the average person in the city. :)

@BrittInSweden - This has nothing to do with rivalry. Norwegians know Sweden is cheaper too as the ones living close to the border regularly cross the border to do their shopping here. It's just a stating something which is common knowledge to everyone just as many Swedes go to Norway to work as they know they'll get a higher salary.

@Keith #5083 - It's refreshing to read such a positive experience on the local instead of the usual rants, I'm happy for you. :)
17:11 January 11, 2010 by farnoxo
Any survey that ranks South Africa the same as Iceland for "Risk and Safety" has got some serious flaws in it. Just ask yourself....where would you rather be out after dary: Reykjavik or Johannesburg? In another bizarre example, this survey ranks the weather in the UK as being better than that in the Cayman Islands and Mauritius - what the £$%^, are these guys on acid! In a final travesty, the survey ranks Belgium above Australia for "leisure and culture" ... Belgium (sorry Belgians) is the most boring country on earth, where people regard counting bird songs and pipe smoking competitions as the highlight of a weekend.

To quote International Living "At International Living, we take a different approach...

We know from experience that there are a host of places around the world that are cheaper...healthier...safer...freer... than you ever thought possible." - YES, but your writers have clearly never actually been to these places.
17:39 January 11, 2010 by efm
Comparison should be average country VS country as a whole. Comparison of Sweden with NYC is stupid. Sure, rent and real estate is expensive in NYC, but food is reasonably cheap. Rent is also cheap in Mississippi or Alabama or other parts of the US.

Oslo is an expensive town, so I heard, I'm sure some remote town may be cheaper.

When they say, the most expensive country in the world, they should compare it in other countries.
17:52 January 11, 2010 by glamshek
Pakistan is most expensive. I do not understand why have they put Sweden as more expensive than so many countries in the world that give smallest wages and gulp more when it comes to the buying power of people. Just visit Pakistan to see the conditions there.

Can you imagine accommodation in Sweden with all its facilities is only double or tripple to that of Pakistan?

Its really nonsense to put Sweden on top.
17:53 January 11, 2010 by Rick Methven
I have just sent an email asking for clarification to the editor responsible - Suzan Haskins

Anybody want to send her an email her address is:

shaskins@internationalliving.com
18:06 January 11, 2010 by Iraniboy
No way. Norway and Denmark are way more expensive.
18:28 January 11, 2010 by Jeanette
Good for the local, defending Sweden's honor - someone at International Living has obviously got a grudge against us... Thanks Rick Methven for the email address of the editor - will mail her too. No way they can defend a score of 0.
19:17 January 11, 2010 by cwb
I HAVE THIS WHOLE THING FIGURED OUT!!! GEOGRAPHICAL ERROR!!

I am an American that is married to a Swede....and it is true that most American's, even "affluent American's....like GWB" cannot find Sweden on a map and 90% of the time they mistake Sweden for Switzerland.....so THIS IS A SIMPLE GEOGRAPHICAL ERROR!...

Here is a funny one...I was at a dinner party with a bunch of doctors from Stanford University and one of the doctors said "hey Sweden is where The Sound of Music is from!" No sorry, that's Austria!! Sorry....they didn't teach you Geography.
19:28 January 11, 2010 by thechamp
CALM DOWN! Sweden is indexed as more expensive than Norway, because it is! If you take into account, for example, the average wages in Oslo: 30-33k NOK, and the prices! In stockholm the average wages are around 18k SEK! So, in effect, Stockholm is extremely expensive. I have experiences living in both Oslo and New York! Stockholm is, by far, more expensive, they're right!

Average apartment in Oslo is around the same price as in stockholm! (to buy: around 3-4 million, to rent around 5-8000 a month)

Average shopping at the grocery store in oslo is around 300NOK, stockholm its around 300SEK. People often make the mistake of comparing prices based on a beer or cigarettes which are extremely expensive in Oslo if you dont know where to go! But the norwegians get paid so much more than they do here (disregard all the teenage guest workers who work at Lidl, Im talking about the average!)
21:48 January 11, 2010 by swedekk
thechamp, I don't know where you got your figures from, but average wages are 32600 SEK in Stockholm (2008) in the private sector, and 85% of the jobs are in the private sector.

18700 SEK is what you can get if you're unemployed.

http://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/pressroom/scb/pressrelease/view/loenestrukturstatistik-2008-32-600-kr-genomsnittsloen-foer-tjaenstemaen-inom-privat-sektor-297209

You will get a pretty big apartment for 4M SEK in Stockholm city or 2 or more apartments if you dare to go outside city.
21:49 January 11, 2010 by California Girl 3
@thechamp: " In stockholm the average wages are around 18k SEK!" Really? Do you happen to have any links to that statistic? Last I saw (in the GP, perhaps not the most reliable source, but they were supposedly using the SCB as their source), the average income in Stockholm is nearly 30K (that was as of 2008):

http://www.gp.se/jobbstudier/jobbpengar/1.30744
00:02 January 12, 2010 by Texrusso
Acerage wage in Sweden is about 15000 Kronor per month before taxes and other deductions. Average rent in Stockholm or greater stockholm is about 3500 Kronor for a studio room. 300 - 500 Kronor for one small grocery spending. Monthly SL transportation card is 700 Kronor and if its the same in Norway and Norwagians earn more then Sweden might actually be the most expensive country in the World.
00:53 January 12, 2010 by Investor612
So that's the argument? We're not as expensive as Norway?

Maybe so, but Sweden is still very expensive.

There's a tradeoff. Apparantly the big VATs that drive up prices help fund the great public transit and other public services.
01:08 January 12, 2010 by Twiceshy
investor612, it's a pretty good argument considering that Sweden was claimed to be more expensive than Norway.

Also I have to say I don't find the public transit great. On paper yes, great, in practice the trains are cancelled or late way too many times.
01:47 January 12, 2010 by podga
Sweden is apparently SO expensive that only a minority of young people can afford a subway ticket. I've never seen turnstile jumping (in stations where it's possible, like Mariatorget) elevated to such a fine art.

And lest someone say that it's the "new" Swedes that are not law-abiding, I would say that according to my (admittedly very non-statistical) observations, that most of the turnstile jumpers look distinctly Nordic.
02:08 January 12, 2010 by Rolf100
If I lived in Sweden the most troubling comment in this article is the last paragraph - it says Sweden is totally dependent on foreign labor and students to maintain a quality of life of the average Swedish citizens.

Wow - talk about a problem! How will you remain your culture?

Get over the index - the simple truth is that it is not what your Kroner buys in Norway but your average salaries and what they will buy you in your home country!
02:27 January 12, 2010 by jack sprat
Its the horrendous overall tax-rate that knocks the job on the head in Sweden and this will likely have to increase even further after the next election.

Just wonder is there any other country in Europe or the World which charges tax on tax?
07:56 January 12, 2010 by miau
I was considering moving to Germany last year and was offered a €300/month after-tax pay rise. But the higher cost of living there meant that I would have been considerably worse off. For example, we have a small house now (bostadsrätt) with a backyard--we could never afford to get a house in Germany close to a city. The monthly repayments would be about double, plus the cost of the commute to work. A childcare place (that is, if you can get one) is about 3-4 times more expensive (we pay about 1000SEK now).

On top of this I find most things here organised pretty well, especially when it comes to the welfare of children. Lots of parks, inexpensive childcare, free health care and education. And income taxes are not high here compared to Germany or even Australia (where I come from). The general cost of living is also not that high. I think it's the exchange rate which kills it. I know my parents will freak out when they come to visit later in the year.
09:15 January 12, 2010 by becks41
Sure Sweden is pretty expensive, should it be labeled as the most expensive country in the world, probably not - why can't they do an article on more important issues like why is it that living in Sweden causes constipation issues among foreigners - is the lack of quality produce in this country or what!?! - people need to know!
11:14 January 12, 2010 by fxrae
Sweden more expensive than Norway? ahahahahahhahaha
11:33 January 12, 2010 by Rogerenden
ahahaha! :|

wages higher in norway, too?

and about the guy from nyc: let's swap? i'd take a place in ny, you can have one in sweden. deal?
12:37 January 12, 2010 by Rebel
Hearing Swedes defend theie country by pointing out that Norway is perhaps more expensive is like a person defending the violence levels in Washington DC by pointing to south-central LA. It obscures the fact that both areas are high in a particular negative social index.

Sweden has mediocre wages coupled with a tax system designed to maintain a lower middle class socio-economic lifestyle.
13:07 January 12, 2010 by jbn486
Did they ever visit Switzerland?
14:49 January 12, 2010 by kmbr
It is my understanding that Norway and Denmark are more expensive but that salaries in both places are also much higher. Sweden is known to have salaries on the low end of the scale.
15:25 January 12, 2010 by Greg in Canada
It's interesting with a survey that is about the country of Sweden so many respond by talking only about the city Stockholm as if Stockholm is Sweden. That's like saying London is representative of the entire UK. NYC is a lso very expensive compared to most other places in the USA, but NYC isn't the entire USA, although native New Yorkers may dispute that.:-)

Sweden is a relatively expensive country by world comparisons when everything is factored in, certainly more expensive than my country, but its no way the most expensive country in the world. It seems that this "study" is flawed.
18:30 January 12, 2010 by Querist
I'm guessing that Sweden's famous 'MIDDLE WAY' ain't all it's cracked up to be!

.chortle.

.
21:16 January 12, 2010 by krigeren
Its nonsense to claim Sweden is not more expensive than Norway!!!

Thomas Carlhed who works for the Swedish Insitute is nothing but a propagandist for the government of Sweden. His organization gets paid 225 million SEK a year to say whatever the government wants it to say.

What it really boils down to is looking at the purchasing power of the countries citizens. That is their wage in relation to expenses and then whats left over.

Norwegians win with more disposable income. Norway is wealthy due to oil but it will run out and they have no plans on what to do when it does.

Sweden's industry is leaving due to an unfavorable business environment...since its industry that pays for the welfare state the welfare state is cracking apart due to extremely high unemployment (the 8 percent figure in reality is over double that).

Norway is equivalent to what Sweden was like in the 1970's in terms of the strength of its economy. Sweden today is Norway's future. Denmark is the closest of the three countries to get the balance right in order to compete in today's global economy.
11:40 January 13, 2010 by Gwrhyr
Denmark is indeed the most well-balanced of the Nordics. The Netherlands is the most well-balanced in Europe as a whole. Sweden could learn a lot from both countries if it took his head out of its own butt long enough to see that you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have a functioning and generous welfare state with a functioning and vibrant economy.

Sweden's obviously not the only country that could learn from Denmark and the Netherlands... the problem is that most countries' politics are embarrassingly inbred.
16:07 January 13, 2010 by Marc the Texan
I paid for a Big Mac value meal in Norway in 2005 and it worked out to $14. I paid for a large pizza by delivery in Oslo and it worked out to $52 American. Norway is the most expensive country I've ever visited.
16:19 January 13, 2010 by Deema
Whether or not it's more expensive than Norway doesn't prove that it isn't ridiculously expensive for the quality of life you get in return!
17:03 January 15, 2010 by lensart
You are not currently logged in.

The question isn't how much a hamburger costs, how much one pays for a glass of milk or a liter of fuel. The issue is buying power per hour worked. What life quality is purchased for a month's wages. Frankly, I'd rate Sweden below the USA, and a close friend of mine from the Indian middle class would say the same of his home country. Like most critiques from the outside, rather than contemplate it and possibly correct it, the Swedish Institute, like Swedes would rather ignore it or point the blame elsewhere.

30 out of 200... I can believe that.
20:36 April 22, 2010 by Michael Whitfield
Has the Representative from International Living been to Moscow lately? The one in Russia, not Idaho. For the writer from Texas, paying US 52 for a large pizza in Oslo seems a little high. Maybe could have saved a little by picking up the pizza yourself.
13:40 October 10, 2010 by mikewhite
Which all goes to show that a single number in this context cannot encapsulate all the variables.

Is the figure for a tourist eating out and going by bus or train, staying in a chain hotel ?

For a native living on the national median wage … with or without children ? Renting a house; an apartment ... ?
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