Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Having fared well in both the crisis and post-crisis periods, Sweden shares the SGI 2016’s top position (rank 1) with respect to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Despite longtime stability, signs of economic tension are emerging. Interest rates have been lowered to sub-zero levels to fend off deflation, and housing-bubble fears are emerging. Political commitment to budgetary surpluses has diminished.

The unemployment rate remains comparatively high. The government has pledged to halve this by 2020, a task the influx of refugees will make more difficult. Incentives to hire young people have been replaced by a renewed focus on government-sponsored employment.

The government has set modestly higher tax-rate and spending goals. As business taxes are today relatively low, competitiveness is not a pressing issue. The country invests strongly in R&D, though commercialization is a weak spot.

Social Policies

With its highly developed welfare state, Sweden falls into the top ranks worldwide (rank 3) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points since 2014.

Students’ comparative international rankings have shown precipitous decline. In response, the government is seeking to increase teacher pay, hire more school staff, and create more German-style apprenticeship programs. Levels of gender equality is high. Poverty and income inequality rates are low but increasing, and young people are having increasing difficulties in finding jobs.

Recent health-care privatization has produced long wait times and reports of substandard treatments, though care quality is generally good. Family policies are generous, with extensive maternal and paternal leave and ample child-care provision.

Pension-system sustainability has improved. The government is seeking to raise retirement ages. Immigration policies are generous, but integration has proved problematic despite far-reaching policies in the area.

Environmental Policies

With a longstanding focus on ecological issues, Sweden takes the SGI 2016’s top position (rank 1) in the area of environmental policy. Its score in this area has improved by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The country remains a significant energy consumer, but CO2 emissions are declining, biodiversity is improving and the ecological footprint is decreasing. The government is moving toward “green taxes.” The country’s use of nuclear energy remains controversial question even within the governing coalition, but several reactors are slated to close in any case due to low profitability.

Sweden has historically given strong support to global environmental regimes, even going beyond the requirements of international accords such as the Kyoto Protocol.



Quality of Democracy

With its unmatched set of strengths, Sweden is the SGI 2016’s top overall scorer (rank 1) with regard to quality of governance. After a drop last year, its score on this measure has recovered to within 0.1 point of its 2014 level.

Electoral processes are very well regulated. Political parties receive public and private funding, but monitoring and disclosure policies are weak. Media independence is well protected, and the sector is competitive, with online media gaining increasing importance.

Access to government information is broad, though delays have prompted criticism. Civil rights are firmly respected, and discrimination is not tolerated, though the influx of refugees is stressing the migration system. Ethnic segmentation in metropolitan suburbs is increasing.

The rule of law is quite strong, and corruption is very rare, through reports of abuse at the local level have increased. Judicial review is active, and court appointments are strictly meritocratic.



Executive Capacity

With multiple layers of coordination, Sweden falls into the top ranks worldwide (rank 3) in terms of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Strategic capacity has been enhanced in recent years, with planning efforts focused in the Finance Ministry. Considerable energy has been spent improving interdepartmental coordination, in part by centralizing authority in the government office and Finance Ministry. Development of policy details takes place at the non-partisan bureaucratic level.

While RIAs are not used systematically, environmental-sustainability reviews are mandatory. Though institutionalized societal consultation has diminished in past years, the current government closely consults unions in particular.

Closely monitored agencies, rather than ministries, implement policies, and even have a say in policy development. While the central government has funded costs associated with the refugee influx, local governments have increasingly expressed frustration over unfunded mandates more generally.

Executive Accountability

With mature oversight mechanisms, Sweden falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 2) with respect to executive accountability. After a slight gain last year, its score this year represents a decline of 0.2 points relative to 2014.

The population has a strong interest in politics, and election turnout rates are high. Media reporting of policy issues is generally good by international standards.

Parliamentarians have adequate resources, and well-developed executive-oversight powers, though the recent refusal of several former cabinet ministers to appear before parliament drew attention. The audit office reports to both the parliament and the government. Sweden effectively invented the ombudsman institution, and it remains influential.

Political-party decision-making has gradually become more open. Economic-interest organizations are sophisticated, and have long been integrated into policymaking processes. The capacities of other interest organizations vary, but many are quite developed.
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