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'Swedes' debts cost society billions': minister

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'Swedes' debts cost society billions': minister
15:46 CEST+02:00
According to minister for EU affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson, Swedes have too many debts. She has therefore launched an enquiry to map out the extent of the problem and come up with possible solutions, planned to be completed by 2013.

"It is always the borrower's responsibility not to shoulder a larger debt burden than he or she can carry. But we need an extended knowledge of the problem and a better safety net for vulnerable groups as the price of getting in over your head costs so much both for individuals and society as a whole," wrote Ohlsson in daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

In an opinion piece in the paper on Monday, Ohlsson wrote that the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden) estimates that unpaid debts amasses a cost to society of between 30 and 50 billion kronor ($4.4 billion to 7.3 billion) per annum.

Last year some 44,550 Swedes between 18 and 25 years of age had trouble paying off their debts and in total, 400,000 Swedes have debts registered with the agency.

However, the government has been taking measures to combat individual citizen falling into heavy debts, Ohlsson wrote in SvD.

This includes tightened rules on credit checks on quick loans and more support for those who want to learn how to balance their private economy.

But according to Ohlsson, more is needed not in the least to help the large group of young people who are in the danger zone of getting over their heads into debt.

She also touched upon the connection between debt and ill health, an area she thinks ought to be explored further.

Anna-Carin Gustafsson Åström of the Enforcement Authority is positive that the government wants to make a considered effort to tackle the issue. She thinks that there are many reasons behind the Swedes' growing debt problem.

“Unforeseen circumstances, a life crisis, unemployment or divorce can make you be late with your repayments,” said Gustafsson Åström.

She also said that people tend to be pretty heavy in debt before they ask for help.

“With debt-rescheduling it takes five years to be debt-free but it takes a lot longer than that to get back on your feet,” she told TT.

According to Gustafsson Åström, Swedes consider their private economy to be something they don't want to discuss.

She would recommend anyone who faces a growing number of debts to contact the companies or the agency to receive help sooner.

TT/The Local/rm

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