After the royal guests had arrived and the King declared the Riksdag session open, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt delivered a Statement of Government Policy highlighting features of the government’s employment initiatives.
Early in his address, Reinfeldt described what he viewed as the “large-scale exclusion from the labour market” that the Alliance inherited from the previous government. Entrepeneurs looked on the future as bleak and people on welfare benefits saw little chance of a return to the labour market.
“As a result, more than a million people were excluded from the labour market or working less than they wanted to. Meanwhile, benefit systems and high income taxes created a situation where for many people work did not pay. This was particularly true for people on low or medium incomes,” said Reinfeldt.
In its bid to reward work, the government is set to launch the second stage of its income tax cuts next year.
The Prime Minister listed a number of indicators suggesting continued economic growth for Sweden: more people are joining the labour market, unemployment is dropping and fewer people are experiencing social exclusion.
“Our future prospects appear positive in a twofold sense. More people in work means fewer people are excluded. This in turn means increased scope for further tax relief and investments in welfare,” said Reinfeldt.
“If we do not now take the chance to implement more reforms to create more jobs, we run the risk of missing out on an historic opportunity to overcome exclusion,” he added.
The government also pledged to create more incentives for employers to provide jobs for those struggling to gain a foothold on the labour market.
“The Government also intends to expand new start jobs to include public sector health care and social services. This means yet another way back to work, not least for many women; at the same time we will be able to meet the needs of the welfare system in terms of staff to provide better quality and to fill future retirement gaps,” said Reinfeldt.
The Prime Minister also took up Sweden’s long tradition of leadership on environmental issues.
“One fundamental principle in the work of reform is that polluters must pay for their impact on the environment. Special emphasis will be given to carbon dioxide taxation and other energy taxes,” said Reinfeldt.
Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin was critical of an address that she felt excluded large sections of the population.
“Where were the unemployed and the people on long-term sick leave? Long-term unemployment hasn’t dropped, it has increased among the young,” she said.
Lars Ohly, leader of the Left Party, also gave the government the thumbs down.
“They have hit the pause button when it comes to equality and the stop button when it comes to justice,” he said.