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All Swedes, regardless of need, could call upon the government to provide them with the benefits listed below. Most are available at no charge to the individual or family. Some "subsidized" benefits require persons to pay a partial fee, usually according to one's income. A few additional kinds of aid are provided only to those who have low incomes.

The most important of these are housing subsidies for poor families and elderly pensioners. Because of the extensive number of benefits available to all age and income groups, poverty was virtually abolished in Sweden by the s. But there are those who still need extra help during hard economic times or a family crisis. An example of the latter is the increasing number of single mothers who depend on temporary government cash aid.

Sweden 'slimmest Nordic welfare state '

This "social assistance" what we call "welfare" usually involves small amounts of aid provided for less than a year. The Swedish welfare state has all but eliminated poverty, especially among the elderly and families with children. The typical married retired couple receives pension and supplemental payments that almost equal their pre-retirement income. This is much more than what a Social Security pension provides in the United States.

The infant mortality rate in Sweden is five deaths for every 1, live births contrasted to seven deaths in the United States. Also, both male and female Swedes live longer than Americans. While there is little doubt that the Swedish people have benefited from the "Swedish Model," they also have one of the heaviest tax burdens in the world. Today, an average Swedish working family pays about half its earned income in national and local taxes.

Swedes also pay taxes on investment income. In addition, Sweden has a national 25 percent sales tax that is built into the price of consumer goods. Beyond this, employers must pay corporate taxes and make payments into government pension, unemployment, and other social welfare funds. The resulting tax burden is so heavy that Swedes have a special word for it, skattetrat , which means "tax tiredness.

Government spending currently equals about 60 percent of Sweden's gross domestic product the value of all goods and services purchased in a year. The Swedish government's fastest growing spending areas are health services and old-age pensions. Furthermore, public employment has rocketed to account for about one-third of all jobs in Sweden.

In the United States, the government supplies less than 5 percent of all jobs. Starting in the mids, the Swedish economy began to slow down. Among other things, Swedish exports had become too expensive due to the high wages and payments made by employers into the different government welfare-state programs.

As economic growth slowed, Sweden found it increasingly difficult to pay for its system of social-welfare benefits. As inflation, unemployment, and the government budget deficit grew, many working people started to complain about the burden of paying for the expensive pension system. Others objected to the lack of choice in a society where the government runs almost all social services. In , a conservative government took control of the government and tried to rein in the welfare state.

It cut some benefits as well as taxes. But these actions came during a world-wide recession, and unemployment in Sweden soared to an unprecedented 13 percent. Fearing that the conservative government was going too far in cutting back the welfare state, Swedish voters returned the Social Democratic Party to power in Surprisingly, the SDP, the party that created the welfare state, announced a program of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the government deficit. Late in , however, with both the deficit and unemployment down, the SDP government reversed course and declared it was time to restore and even expand some social welfare benefits.

But many doubt whether the "Swedish Model" of a welfare state that benefits everyone can continue at the level that most Swedes have come to expect. Some Americans look to Sweden as a model for U.


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  • Others say that the "Swedish Model" would not work in the United States because the two countries are so different. How is Sweden different from the United States? Do you think these differences would prevent the "Swedish Model" of welfare from working in the United States?

    Sweden's welfare state has been described as a "middle way" between socialism and capitalism. What does this mean? What similarities and differences are there between government social benefits in Sweden and the United States? The Welfare State in Sweden. Regardless of income, most Americans are entitled to Social Security old-age and survivor pensions, Medicare at age 65 , disability benefits, unemployment insurance, and worker's compensation.

    In Sweden, everyone has a right to a much longer list of social welfare benefits. Which, if any, of these benefits should be made available to everyone in the United States? The Little Big Number. Modernizing China's Growth Paradigm. Local Paths to Sustainable Development. Applied Economics - Thomas Sowell. A Very Short Introduction. Inequality and Economic Policy. Summary of Portfolios of the Poor: A Centuries Old Mystery and Conspiracy.

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