What Sweden’s spring budget means for you

What Sweden's spring budget means for you
Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson presents the spring budget on Monday morning. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
Sweden's government on Monday announced its spring budget proposal in full, five months ahead of this year's general election. The Local breaks down what you should know about how the changes could affect you.

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The budget presented on Monday includes 2.6 billion kronor worth of additional investments to those outlined in the autumn budget.

Most of this money is earmarked for health and elderly care, while the police force and customs can also expect a boost. This is unsurprising, with healthcare and security two key issues for Swedish voters, but what does the budget proposal mean for day to day life in Sweden? Here are seven key points.

Shorter waiting times to see a doctor

More than half of the extra investment is going to welfare: a total of 1.5 billion kronor.

The government has pledged an extra 200 million kronor for healthcare on top of the 400 million already set aside. This will go directly to Sweden's regions in order to recruit and retain staff who can help plug skills shortages – including those with in-demand skills who want to work even after reaching the retirement age. The government has also set aside 10 million kronor to speed up the validation of foreign healthcare qualifications.

By having more qualified staff, the government hopes to reduce waiting times to see a doctor, particularly during the summer months when queues are typically longest. The cash could also help fund mobile healthcare teams, who could for example help elderly people without them needing to go to emergency departments.

“The staff are the solution,” said Minister for Social Affairs Annika Strandhäll. “We're putting a new piece in the puzzle of cutting waiting times, offering better conditions, and increasing accessibility of healthcare.”

Care for the elderly will also get an injection of 350 million kronor, and one of the top priorities is investing in digital technology. This includes safety alarms to help vulnerable people who live alone, as well as options for medical checkups or advice over video calls.

Funds for police to improve security

Security is another key question in Sweden ahead of the September election, and the government aims to boost police resources (and its number of votes…) with the spring budget.

An extra 200 million kronor has been set aside to cover the costs of protective equipment such as safety vests, helmets, and body cameras, and to ensure that more criminals are prosecuted. The cash is also intended to improve police capacity to investigate sexual offences, something which Andersson said “needs to be prioritized”.

Law and order is a key issue for Swedish voters ahead of the election. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

Sweden's police union has previously said that staff shortages have led to fewer crimes being solved in the country, with large numbers leaving the profession due to difficult working environments and dissatisfaction with salary. But opposition parties the Moderates and Centre Party have criticized the spring budget as inadequate, both arguing that more money should go directly to improve police wages.

READ MORE: Sweden needs more police officers, union says

A concrete reaction to #MeToo

The #MeToo scandal of sexual harassment and discrimination has had a huge effect in Sweden, including on the spring budget.

“Metoo affects all parts of society. The government sees that and is also trying to respond to that,” equality minister Lena Hallengren told the TT newswire.

A total of 110 million kronor will be spent on measured aimed at combatting gender-based discrimination. That includes 50 million kronor for the Swedish National Agency for Education to be spent on improving education about sex and relationships; a 25 million kronor boost for the Swedish Work Environment Authority, to tackle harassment in the workplace; and 25 million for social services in order to increase knowledge and awareness for tackling violence against women.

A further 10 million kronor will go to the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority, with the aim of strengthening information and education about the new sexual consent law. 

Separately, women's refuges will get an extra 50 million kronor in the spring budget.

READ ALSO: What does the #MeToo campaign reveal about Swedish feminism?

Focus on getting more foreign-born women into work

Sweden's unemployment rate is low, having fallen to 6.2 percent in 2018 from 7.9 percent in 2014, but that's still higher than the 5.9 percent figure it predicted last summer. The country is also far from its goal of reaching the lowest unemployment rate in the EU by 2020: currently ten EU countries have a lower unemployment rate, with the figure lowest in the Czech Republic at 2.9 percent. And foreign-born residents, particularly women, are disproportionately likely to be out of work.

On Monday the government pledged 141 million kronor to improve the path to employment, particularly for foreign-born women, and improving access to language courses is a key component.

File photo: Sofia Sabel/

“The employment rate for foreign-born women is high from a European perspective, but still too low by Swedish measurements,” explained Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson. “Swedish language skills are a key to the job market and to Swedish society.”

The investment includes 60 million kronor to improve the quality of SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) language classes, and 20 million for ensuring more new arrivals can start learning Swedish from day one, even before receiving their residency permit. A further 15 million is earmarked for Swedish language classes and resources for immigrants who are on parental leave, for example language training in connection with preschool.

READ ALSO: This map shows where you're most likely to be unemployed in Sweden

'World's first fossil free country'

Sweden has more than doubled its budget for the environment since 2014 – largely because the Green Party is part of the current government – and the country is now aiming to become “the world's first fossil free welfare state”.

To achieve this, an extra 170 million kronor will go to investment in solar energy, supporting businesses and individuals who opt for the environmentally friendly panels by covering 30 percent of installation costs.

And the government also proposed the extension of a subsidy for certain electric vehicles, including bikes and motorcycles, which was introduced earlier this year. An additional 45 million kronor will be set aside for the scheme, which will be extended to apply to boats as well.

“It's important to make it worthwhile to make environmentally smart choices for boat owners who want to contribute to 'green' policy,” said Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin.

Investment in culture

Sweden's cinema industry will also get a boost in the form of 15 million kronor in 2018, on top of a previously announced annual 25-million kronor investment between 2016 and 2019. The Swedish Film Institute will decide exactly how these funds are used, but in the past these funds have been used to help finance film festivals and to support cinemas in the country's smaller towns, increasing access to culture nationwide.

50 million will also be spent on books for preschools, while a further 20 million kronor funding boost was promised for culture and sport for young people.

READ ALSO: Sweden's new laws to watch out for in 2018

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