Sweden’s income gap shrinks for first time since financial crisis

Sweden's growing income gap has decreased for the first time since the financial crisis. But foreign residents are still much poorer than native Swedes.

Sweden's income gap shrinks for first time since financial crisis
Income disparities have grown in Sweden over time. Photo: Adam Wrafter/SvD/TT

On the whole, Swedish households' economic standard continued to increase in 2018, according to a new report by number crunchers Statistics Sweden on Wednesday.

But compared to 2012-2015, when the economic standard improved by 9.0 percent, it increased at a much slower rate in recent years, with a modest 3.0 percent growth in 2015-2018 and 0.8 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, the income gap shrank in 2018 to the lowest level since 2014. It was also the first time the income gap between rich and poor decreased in Sweden since the financial crisis of 2008.

The decrease can be linked to lower capital gain for the wealthy in 2018, a challenging year for the Stockholm stock exchange.

When capital gain was excluded from the calculation, income differences remained relatively stable in 2018 and the 2010s. And despite the decrease in 2018, income inequality has grown in Sweden over time.


Statistics Sweden's report also noted that the income gap between foreign-born people and people born in Sweden has remained more or less stable in the past decade, including in 2018 when foreigners' economic standard was 77 percent of native Swedes' economic standard.

In terms of fast income growth, single women in their 20s without children were the winners of the past decade, racking up a 28 percent income growth between 2011 and 2018 (compared to 19 percent for single and childless men in the same age group).

The year 2018 was also the first year in which more than 100,000 people – three quarters of whom were men – earned a total income of more than one million kronor ($103,941). 

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What happens if you don’t pay a bill in Sweden?

Sweden's Enforcement Authority is responsible for collecting unpaid debts, fines, and declarations of bankruptcy. So, what happens if an unpaid bill reaches the Enforcement Authority, and can you do anything if you have a black mark on your record?

What happens if you don't pay a bill in Sweden?

What happens when you have a bill?

Usually, if you have a bill in Sweden, you will receive an invoice (faktura) either digitally or via post, which will include details such as the amount owed, who to pay and the date payment is due (förfallodatum).

If you don’t pay the invoice in time, the person you owe money to may turn the case over to inkasso, or a debt collection agency, who will again send you an invoice for payment, plus the agency’s fee.

If this invoice goes unpaid, the Enforcement Authority will get involved.

The Swedish Enforcement Authority, Kronofogden in Swedish, is responsible for collecting unpaid debts. It does this by providing advice and support to those who are unable to pay their debts, as well as helping creditors – such as, for example, landlords whose tenants have not paid their rent.

The debt collection agency will pass unpaid bills on to them, and you may receive a betalningsanmärkning or black mark on your credit record.

Before you receive a black mark, however, you will first receive an ansökan om betalningsföreläggande from the Enforcement Authority. If you pay this in time, your debt will not be registered as a betalningsanmärkning.

There are some types of payment where you can receive a betalningsanmärkning without the bill going through a debt collection agency first. These are usually payments owed to the state, such as unpaid tax, unpaid student loan repayments or unpaid municipal parking fees.

You are unlikely to come into contact with the Enforcement Authority unless you miss or forget to pay a bill.

What happens if you get a black mark?

A black mark can have pretty major consequences – it can stop you from hiring a car, getting a credit card, borrowing money (including getting a mortgage), taking out a phone contract or even renting an apartment, as well as barring you from ordering anything on credit or paying via invoice.

This is due to the fact that whenever you apply for a loan or credit in Sweden, the lender will check your credit score (kreditupplysning) to see if there is any risk of you not paying up. Many lenders have a strict policy on not lending to individuals with black marks on their credit score to minimise risk, no matter whether the mark is due to an unpaid phone bill or a missed mortgage repayment.

How can I check if I have one?

You can check if you have a black mark by contacting a credit check company – here is a list of all credit check companies in Sweden. Some may charge a small fee for the service, whereas others offer it for free.

One advantage of checking your own credit score before contacting a lender is that your credit score is not affected when you carry out a check on yourself. 

If, however, a bank carries out a credit check on you, this can affect your credit score – it’s usually not an issue if you carry out one or two checks, but a lot of checks in a short period of time could cause issues.

Can you do anything to remove it?

Unfortunately, no. 

All you can do is wait – a black mark will disappear from your record after three years for private individuals or five years for businesses. 

The best strategy is to avoid getting a black mark on your record in the first place – such as by paying your bills via autogiro (direct debit), keeping an eye on your post (as well as your digital post), and paying for items up-front if possible to avoid invoices, rather than using “buy now, pay later” credit services such as Klarna or Clearpay.