Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Showing exceptional results in a number of areas, Sweden falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 2) with respect to economic policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Though the pandemic led to a sharp fall in GDP in early 2020, the overall decrease for the year was just 2.8%, mitigated by the government’s economic response measures. Modest levels of growth returned the following year. Policy measures were aimed at softening the decrease in demand and protecting the sectors most exposed to hardship.

Though traditionally low, unemployment rates have now risen above those in many comparable economies. In October 2021, the rate was 8.5%, with significant decreases expected in the following years. Levels among young people and immigrants are considerably higher. Active labor-market policies and polices aimed at integrating immigrants are strong.

Tax abatements were provided to businesses during the pandemic. Energy and CO2 emissions are increasingly taxed. The overall debt level reached 38.9% in 2021. R&D investments and policies are both strong. High household debt levels and rising housing prices are an increasing concern.

Social Policies

With its highly developed welfare state, Sweden falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 4) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points since 2014.

The healthcare system offers high-quality care through a single-payer tax-funded system. The pandemic exposed and deepened an ongoing labor shortage in the sector. COVID-19 death rates were higher than those in other Scandinavian countries. Family policies are generous, with extensive maternal and paternal leave and ample child-care provision.

Education is a key political focus due to comparatively low test rankings. However, access is extremely equitable. University funding has been increased, with financial assistance provided as part of the pandemic response. Gender inclusion is a particular strength, but young people and recent immigrants have difficulties in finding work. A radical right-wing party has changed the political landscape.

The pension system is sound and sustainable. The country has received significant immigration flows in recent years, but integration has proved challenging. A new policy has tightened residency requirements. Crime rates have risen, with organized crime and criminal gangs an increasing concern.

Environmental Policies

With a longstanding focus on ecological issues, Sweden takes the SGI 2022’s top position (rank 1) in the area of environmental policy. Its score in this area has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The country remains a significant energy consumer, but greenhouse gas emissions are declining, and the use of renewable energy resources is improving. A major emission culprit is the burning of plastics for electricity and district heating production.

A circular-economy strategy includes measures supporting housing energy efficiency, energy transition in the transport sector and a reduction in single-use plastics. Four nuclear reactors have been shut down since 2017.

The country is a leader in international environmental protection campaigns. It has a record of going beyond the requirements of international accords.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

With its unmatched set of strengths, Sweden is the SGI 2022’s top overall scorer (rank 1) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Electoral processes are very well regulated. Political parties receive public and private funding, with recent legislation having increased the transparency of this financing. Media independence is well protected, and the sector is competitive, with online media taking on increasing importance. Access to government information is broad, with much of it posted online.

Civil rights are firmly respected. Constitutional prohibitions on curbing citizens’ mobility blocked the ability to impose lockdowns or curfews during the pandemic. Organized crime is becoming an increasing problem in metropolitan regions, leading to infringement of individual freedoms by private actors. Rising levels of antisemitism are seen as a concern.

The rule of law is quite strong, and corruption is very rare, through reports of office abuse at the local level occasionally emerge. Court appointments are strictly meritocratic, and the legal system is characterized by a high degree of transparency.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

With multiple layers of effective coordination, Sweden is the SGI 2022’s top scorer (rank 1) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to its 2014 level.

Strategic planning is performed by commissions of inquiry. Decisions in the government are made collectively, with no individual ministerial accountability. The PMO and Finance Ministry play a significant role in the coordination process. The PMO and GO are more deeply involved in content when policies are initiated, when final decisions are made, and when disagreements among parties emerge.

Ex ante assessments of regulatory impact have been required since 2007. Ex post performance measurement is common. Though institutionalized societal consultation has diminished in past years, the government consults broadly with key societal partners. Efforts to increase communication coherency have led to complaints of declining access to members of the government.

In 2019, the government agreed to implement neoliberal reforms in order to win parliamentary backing. A breakdown in this accord led to a vote of no confidence against the prime minister in 2021. Local governments often complain about unfunded mandates. Standardization at the municipal level is improving.

Executive Accountability

With highly mature oversight mechanisms, Sweden falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 2) with respect to executive accountability. Its score this year has improved by 0.3 points relative to its 2014 level.

The population is generally politically engaged, and election turnout rates are very high. Media reporting of policy issues is good by international standards. Ownership consolidation is increasing in the media, and the focus on local news has increased. Young people increasingly consume news from social media rather than from traditional news sources.

Parliamentarians have adequate resources, and well-developed executive oversight powers. The audit office reviews the government, corporations and foundations. Sweden effectively invented the ombudsman institution, and this body remains influential. The data-protection agency’s remit includes personal information, including health and financial data.

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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