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Jobs in focus during party leader debate

Published: 16 Jun 2010 17:53 GMT+02:00
Updated: 16 Jun 2010 17:53 GMT+02:00

The jobs, the environment and unemployment were the dominant themes in the party leaders' debate in Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on Wednesday.

The tone between the blocs looks set to remain tough ahead of the autumn parliamentary election. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt emphasised the government's commitment to full employment when he opened the debate.

"Everyone should have a job that matches their abilities," he said.

He pointed out that the Alliance coalition promised 1,000 kronor ($127.88) more per month in Swedish wallets during the last election campaign.

"It turned out to be much more than that - 1,600 to 1,700 kronor for a metalworker or a miner," said Reinfeldt.

He put the government's employment pledges up against the red-green coalition's stance on benefits.

"This will be the battle for the autumn election," he said.

Reinfeldt also stressed that the core of welfare services should be safeguarded, as well as the quality of welfare. In addition, he talked about the importance of an economy in balance.

In response, Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin accused Reinfeldt of not doing enough to combat young unemployment. She stated that only one in 20 unemployed youth who end up in the government's job guarantee programme receive training, while one in three has no high school diploma.

Meanwhile, Left Party leader Lars Ohly accused Reinfeldt of pursuing policies that are pulling Sweden apart.

"You claim to have a policy for jobs, but there is 10 percent unemployment," he said.

In turn, Reinfeldt attacked Sahlin and accused her of wanting to raise taxes for low-paid women who work in health care, care services and education.

"It is a tax attack on women," he said.

Green Party spokesperson Maria Wetterstrand pointed out that only South Korea, Turkey and Poland have worse unemployment insurance funds than Sweden.

Reinfeldt then criticised the red-green proposal to switch tax levels for lower unemployment insurance fees. According to government calculations, it would lead to 1.8 million members paying higher taxes, many of them in typically female occupations.

Sahlin answered that that the government's unemployment insurance reforms resulted in a hotel cleaner paying five times the membership fee compared to a doctor and that the reforms ruined the solidarity of the unemployment insurance fund.

This incensed Reinfeldt.

"You would take money from women and use it to raise unemployment insurance for men who do not work. That is your solidarity," he replied.

Sahlin countered that there are those with genuinely high incomes who have received large tax cuts under Reinfeldt's government.

Centre Party leader Maud Olofsson got into a heated exchange with the red-green leaders after Reinfeldt's statements, in which she argued that much had been achieved over the past four years despite it having been a tough time and that much remains to be done.

"I thought that the Centre Party would be a sensible doorkeeper for the environment in the government," said Wetterstrand, who said she was deeply disappointed in Olofsson and the Centre Party for everything from the wolf hunt and its decisions on fertiliser taxes and biodiversity.

Olofsson responded by saying that the Green Party would not dare stand up for its own policies and the impact they would have on Swedish society if they were carried out.

"You have not showed enough of how you are taking care of your own climate goals," she said to Wetterstrand. "You would not risk facing the voters with what is required. It is a cowardly policy."

TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

20:10 June 16, 2010 by Markus D
It was a great debate!

The two blocs are as far apart as ever which will help make the choice very clear for most Swedes.

Wetterstrand´s arguments were typically crazy, Ohly was his usual self and poor old Mona got more than she bargained for!

Sweden is on it´s way to a new prosperity - it´s finding it´s true greatness again where people want to work, improve society and stand up for right values.

I hope the Allians get a big majority in September so they can continue the reforms that are needed yet.
12:02 June 20, 2010 by Uggla
People seem to forget about the ever growing unemployment rate in this country. At this moment it's the highest it has ever been. And not all these people getting help are free loaders. Many of them have worked in Sweden for many many years as nurses, doctors, educators and now have no where to turn to get a job due to these "cut backs" and I have many friends who have been hit hard by this worry where their next meal will come. People who have always had a silver spoon in their mouths really do not understand what it is like for others to struggle. So it's easy for them to accuse others of being "free loaders" when they do not truly know what its like. I vote lets fix the "cut back " situation before wasting money showing off to the world.
00:26 June 23, 2010 by USA Is Number 1
Is unemployment in Sweden higher today than it was in some years in the 1930s?
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