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Persson promises 930 kronor a day to jobless

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11:37 CEST+02:00
The Social Democrats have said that they will raise the maximum level of unemployment benefit to 930 kronor a day if they win the general election, as they launched their manifesto on Friday.

The proposal means that people still in work will be subsidizing the handouts to a tune of 3.5 billion kronor a year. In total, the promises in the manifesto from Sweden's ruling party are calculated by the party to cost 25 billion kronor.

"Everyone wins when we support each other. Unemployment is not the fault of the unemployed. People on sick pensions have often slogged away during a long working life. When things are going well for Sweden we want to make things better - not worse - for people who are most vulnerable."

The highest daily amount anyone can currently claim in unemployment benefit is 730 kronor. The 200 kronor rise would take effect early next year.

The rise would mean that 70 percent of employees keep 80 percent of their wages if they become unemployed. At present only half of people keep 80 percent of their earlier wages when they lose their jobs. In major unions including Byggnads and IF Metall more than half of members get less than 80 percent of their wages.

The cost of the reforms has been calculated at between 3 and 3.5 billion kronor a year.

In addition, the manifesto included a proposal to give part-time employees the right to go full time. The law would be on the books by 2007, but would not come into effect until 2010. People nearing retirement could also get the right to reduce their working hours. The party said that this would need to be negotiated with unions and employers' organizations.

The party also said it plans to increase funding for research to 1 percent of Sweden's GDP. Other spending plans include making dentistry free for everyone up to the age of 24, capping the cost of a dental examination at 200 kronor, and "significantly reducing" the cost of expensive dental treatment.

Extra spending on Sweden's old people was also promised in the manifesto. The party said it would build 100,000 homes for the elderly if re-elected. The poorest pensioners would get extra housing benefits.

At the opposite end of the age scale, the party promised to introduce a maximum fee of 300 kronor for daycare for pre-school children.

In other education proposals, it was promised that vocational training would be expanded, particularly at upper secondary school (Gymnasium) level. Student grants would be raised. The party also said that control of private schools would be sharpened.

The Social Democrats also repeated their promise that Sweden's dependence on oil would be broken by 2020. This would be done through increased production of fuel made from crops and forestry products.

Göran Persson, presenting the manifesto, said that exactly when the reforms would be introduced would depend on the state of the public finances and the economy as a whole.

"Quite honestly the scope for new reforms is extremely limited in 2007. They will come later in the term," he said.

Opposition leader Fredrik Reinfeldt said he would oppose the rise in unemployment benefits.

"It is provocative in a situation when 1.5 million people are either not working at all or are not working as much as they would like," he said.

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