1. The trains will get slower
Bad news if you’re a frequent rail traveller in Sweden: the country’s high-speed trains are about to become less speedy, with reduced speeds to be enforced on 69 lines as of 2017.
For business travellers in particular, reduced speeds on sections of the busy high-speed lines between the three biggest cities Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö could be an irritant, and in some parts of southern and western Sweden, speeds will drop by as much as 70 km/h. A full list of the routes impacted can be found here.
The reason? Tracks are in terrible condition, railroad switches are failing and other maintenance issues also need to be addressed. On the positive side, the drop in speed is to ensure those problems can be dealt with, so in the long-term the inconvenience should lead to an improvement. In theory.
Photo: Heiko Junge/NTB Scanpix/TT
2. Wages will go up… for most people
Now for some more positive news: If you’re employed in Sweden, then statistically you’re likely to earn a pay rise of around 3 percent next year, according to data from Swedbank reported in business magazine Privata Affärer.
That’s a slight increase on the average pay rise of 2.5 percent in preliminary figures for 2016 recorded by the Swedish National Mediation Office (Medlingsinstitutet).
In healthcare and school work it’s expected that wage growth will be higher than other industries, as those fields have the biggest shortage of specialist staff, according to the Institute of Economic Research (KI). The pace should pick up in the private sector compared to recent years too.
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
3. Internationals will be more likely to be out of work
In a less positive development if you’re an immigrant like many people at The Local, the coming year is set to see foreign-born residents make up 60 percent of unemployed in Sweden, while the jobless rate for Swedes sinks at the same time.
The figures come from Sweden’s Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen) in their labour market forecast, which shows that while unemployment among Swedish-born citizens aged between 16 and 64 will soon drop from 7.5 percent to around 6.6 percent, for foreigners, it’s expected to increase.
So while currently around 50 percent of unemployed people in Sweden are originally from abroad, they will soon make up the majority, as the number hits 60 percent in 2017. It's thought the rise is linked to rising migration.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
4. Work permit rules could be simplified
Staying on the employment theme, a more positive development for internationals could come when the Swedish government re-examines the complicated rules regarding work permits for foreign workers.
A parliamentary committee on social insurance recently told the government to take a fresh look at how work permit rules in the country could be improved, and a government inquiry report on the subject is due to be presented in spring 2017.
The development follows a number of high-profile cases of skilled workers being threatened with deportation from Sweden due to perceived administrative errors or overzealous interpretations of work permit rules.
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
5. First-hand rental contracts will get more expensive, but only marginally
Those lucky to have an elusive first-hand rental contract in Sweden will see their costs increase only slightly in 2017, the Swedish Union of Tenants (Hyresgästföreningen) has revealed.
In 2016 rental costs increased at their lowest rate in ten years, and fortunately it looks like a similar picture will develop in 2017, with a third of the country’s first-hand contracts already negotiated for next year.
So far the average increase across Sweden is 0.67 percent, which for a standard 65 square metre apartment would work out at 35 kronor ($3.8) per month. It could be worse.
Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
6. The process of bringing back conscription could begin
Readers born between 1999 and 2000 may want to pay attention to this one. Earlier this year a Swedish government inquiry recommended that compulsory military service should be reintroduced in the country in an effort to plug gaps in the Armed Forces.
The proposal, released on September 28th, has been put out to a four-month consultation process, and if it goes ahead, young men and women will be asked to complete questionnaires for future recruitment to the Armed Forces from July 1st 2017 onwards.
Those selected from the questionnaire data would then be obliged to complete basic military training from January 1st, 2018. It is estimated that 4000 newly trained soldiers will be needed that year, and the number of people called to obligatory service will depend on the volume of standard recruits available.
Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
7. Self-driving cars will appear in Gothenburg
It sounds like something from science fiction, but self-driving cars are genuinely planned to be on the streets of Gothenburg at some point next year. Swedish car maker Volvo has been testing them in the city since 2014, and aims to roll the first 100 out to consumers both in the western Swedish city and in London in 2017.
“How will you use the extra time you’ll have when your car starts to drive itself? Relax with a newspaper? Meet those last-minute deadlines?” asks Volvo on its website. “Worrying about being in a self-driving car,” sounds more likely, at least initially.
The idea is that they will be safer than the current generation of standard, human-driven cars, and with scrutiny likely to be high in the early stages, we’ll certainly find out sooner rather than later. Something tells us the self-parking capacity will prove popular.
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
8. Border and ID checks could end
Border and ID checks have been a reality in Sweden for around a year now, with the nation one of five Schengen countries that brought in the measures to cope with the mass movement of people during the height of the refugee crisis in late 2015 and early 2016.
Sweden’s temporary border controls were first extended in two separate six month increments, before most recently being extended by a shorter period of three months in November.
In theory, that means the measures could be lifted on February 11th, 2017, though it remains to be seen whether that is the case, as the five Schengen nations involved have recently expressed a keenness to keep them in place beyond then.
For commuters between Malmö and Copenhagen, the changes to what used to be a simple train or car journey has meant lengthened commuting times, and many people in that category will likely be crossing their fingers for a return to normality some time soon.
Regardless of what happens, commuters in the region could see their burden lightened in 2017 as Danish rail operator DSB promised to make rail travel between the countries easier by streamlining the ID check process.
Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
9. Inflation will increase
Sweden’s central bank, the Riksbank, has been courting a growth in inflation through negative interest rates since 2015, but the upturn has been slower than expected, leading to the negative rates staying in place longer than initially designed.
The plan is for the rates to remain until inflation hits two percent, and while that still looks some way off, it is now expected to hit 1.6 percent in 2017. That means a change in the cost of consumer goods among other things. It also means the pay rise that statistically most people in Sweden are expected to get will be somewhat dampened.
Photo: Per Wahlberg/TT
10. The Nobel Literature Laureate will finally make an appearance
Putting a certain US President-elect to one side, Bob Dylan may just be the most divisive American figure for Swedes in 2016. The songwriter became the first musician ever to win a Nobel Literature Prize earlier this year, and promptly responded by, well, not really responding at all, holding his tongue for weeks and making it difficult for the Swedish Academy which awards the prize to get in touch with him.
The elusive Dylan eventually formally accepted the prize a fortnight after it was announced, but when he subsequently explained that he would not come to the traditional December Nobel Banquet to accept it, critics of his reluctant response to the award only had more fuel for their fire.
Swedes will finally get to see their latest literature laureate in 2017 however, as he is booked for a set of concerts at the Stockholm waterfront venue on April 1st and 2nd, before playing Lund’s Sparbankens Skåne Arena on April 9th.
Whether he will also give his Nobel lecture during that period remains to be seen. The talk is a requirement for winners of the prize, and must be given within six months of it being awarded.
Photo: David Vincent/AP