There are (probably) more homeless people in Sweden than you think
There’s no commonly agreed way to calculate homelessness and every country uses a different measure. In Sweden the official figure given by the National Board of Health and Welfare includes lots of people who don’t have a permanent home but aren’t living in shelters or on the streets. For instance, Sweden includes people set to be released from jail within three months and have nowhere to go.
In Sweden’s latest survey, from 2011, 34,000 people were homeless, or 0.36 percent of the population. Of these, 4,500 were classed as being in an “acute” situation, meaning they lived on the streets or in shelters. However, homeless charity Stockholms Stadsmission says that the real figure is much higher than this, claiming among other things that the figure of 370 homeless EU migrants (mostly from Romania and Bulgaria) is too low. Overall homelessness has risen since the last survey in 2005, but new ways of measuring means it’s hard to say by how much.
Swedes are less likely to live on benefits than in the past
The number of working-age people in Sweden living on some kind of welfare increased in 2013 to 818,900, or 14.7 percent of the population aged 20-64. This figure was higher than in 2011 and 2012, but much lower than in previous years: in 2004, 20.1 percent lived on benefits; in 1996, straight after Sweden’s financial crisis, the figure was 22.6 percent. The figure includes people on unemployment benefits, sick benefits and those in government work programmes.
Sweden’s strong economic performance in recent years might have helped get people off benefits, but stricter benefit rules and stronger tax incentives to work introduced by Fredrik Reinfeldt’s former centre-right government between 2006 and 2014 also played a part.
Swedes’ earnings are on the up
The average Swede earned 371,414 kronor ($56,691) in 2013, or about 31,000 a month, according to the OECD. This was up on 2012, when the average wage was 365,000 kronor a year. Accounting for inflation, wages were also up in real terms, from 367,176 in 2012 and 313,500 in 2003.
In August 2014, the average monthly wage for a white collar worker in the private sector was 36,750 kronor. The average hourly wage for a blue-collar worker in the private sector was 154 kronor.
It’s getting more unequal faster than anywhere else
Sweden was among the most equal countries in the OECD, but it’s less equal than it used to be. Income equality is measured by the ‘Gini coefficient’; Sweden has a Gini of 0.27; a score of 0 means everyone has the same income. The US is on 0.38. Overall, Sweden has the 7th most equal incomes in the rich-country group, behind 6th placed Belgium and ahead of 8th placed Finland.
Not a bad performance from Sweden, but what’s really interesting is that inequality has risen faster in Sweden than anywhere else in the past two decades.
There are 41 percent more immigrants
Of the 9.5 million people living in Sweden, 1.53 million were born abroad. That’s up from 1.47 million in 2012 and 1.08 million in 2003. In other words, the number of foreign-born residents in Sweden has increased by 41 percent since 2003.
2 million people have a foreign background, if you include everyone who was born abroad or born in Sweden to two foreign-born parents. This was up slightly on 2012, but up by more than 600,000, or 43 percent, since 2003.
Crime: what happened to the car thieves?
1.4 million crimes were reported in Sweden in 2013, only marginally more than in 2012.
Some categories of violent crime have risen over time: the number of assaults fell 8 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, but had risen overall by 20 percent since 2004. The number of reported rapes fell by 5 percent between 2012 and 2013, but rose fourfold between 2004 and 2013. However, much of this increase is explained by more sexual assaults being classed as rape and a greater willingness by women to report rape.
Car thefts, on the other hand, fell by 14 percent between 2012 and 2013 and by 68 percent since 2004. Perhaps the criminals turned their hands to housebreaking: there were 85,200 domestic burglaries in 2013, up 17 percent on 2003. Time to get an alarm?
Women in workforce
Sweden leads Europe in the percentage of women in work. 77.2 percent of women in Sweden have jobs, according to data from Eurostat, more than in any other European country. However, there’s more to the story: Swedish women are more likely to work part-time than the European average, and their incomes continue to lag behind men’s: according to Statistics Sweden, in 2012 they earned only 86 percent of what men earned.
The World Bank measures the number of women over 15 who are economically active (a slightly different thing). They say 60 percent of Swedish women are economically active - a figure that has barely changed in 20 years. In 1994 the figure was 58 percent.
The birthrate is higher than most places - but still too low
Statisticians say that the average woman needs to give birth to 2.1 babies in her lifetime for the overall population not to shrink (before migration is accounted for). By this measure, Sweden’s birthrate of 1.91 in 2012 is too low. This despite Sweden’s generous parental leave, subsidised daycare and equality between the sexes.
However, Swedes are much better at having babies than Poles (1.30), Spaniards (1.32) or Greeks (1.34). They’re beaten by Brits (1.92), the French and the Irish (2.01). The European average is 1.58.
You’re less likely to die of cancer in Sweden
If you live in Sweden, you’re statistically less likely to die of cancer than in the vast majority of European countries, with just over 92 deaths per 100,000 people.
And this isn’t just down to good genes - among Swedes’ fellow Scandinavians in Denmark the death rate is 125 per 100,000. Swedes’ lower consumption of alcohol, red meat and cigarettes perhaps plays a part here, although there’s room for improvement: Iceland, Malta, Cyprus and Finland do better.
Swedes are the marrying (and divorcing) kind
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
Swedes have a reputation for being relaxed about living together outside marriage. So it might come as something of a surprise to learn that Swedes are more likely than the Germans, French, Brits, Danes or Italians to tie the knot. In 2012, 5.3 marriages were celebrated per 1,000 inhabitants in Sweden. In the EU, only Romanians, Latvians and Cypriots were keener on getting hitched (although the Turks, at 8 marriages per 1,000, beat the lot). However, the rate is lower than in 1960, when the 6.7 Swedes per 1,000 got married.
The divorce rate is also high, however, at 2.5 per 1,000. Compare that to Ireland, where the figure is 0.6, or Sweden in 1960, when it was 1.2.
Sweden has allowed gay marriage since 2009. In 2013, 652 women and 498 men married someone of the same sex in Sweden