Sweden Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Sweden:

  1. Poverty

While Sweden prides itself on transparency, the country’s poverty statistics have been called into question. Although recent government reports have indicated zero absolute poverty, a recent Sweden City Missions report suggests that many basic poverty interventions still involve delivery of essential food and clothing needs. A report by Sveriges Stadsmissioner (Sweden’s City Missions) shows that as many as two thirds (62 percent) of the 200,000 basic interventions are about feeding the hungry. Together with material and economic support that makes up four out of five interventions aimed at people’s most basic needs such as food and clothing. Despite this, the government’s Agenda 2030 report shows that there is no absolute poverty in Sweden today. The City Missions hand out bags of food and food vouchers to financially vulnerable families with children on a daily basis, and serve cheap or free meals to poor pensioners and homeless people. Nevertheless the government’s Agenda 2030 report shows that absolute poverty does not exist in Sweden today. According to Eurostat’s most recent statistics, 16 percent of Sweden’s population are at risk of poverty, which is 1.5 million people and in many cases unemployment brings Swedish families into these circumstances.


  1. Unemployment

The Statistics Office in 2019 published figures showing unemployment unchanged at 7.1 percent and at 7.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis. Statistics have consistently revealed that on average, migrants living in Sweden are unemployed at much higher rates than native Swedes are. The unemployment rate for migrants living in Sweden was 19.9 percent, compared to just 3.6 percent for native Swedes. The unemployment rate increased to 7.4 percent in December from 7.2 percent in November. In the same month last year, the jobless rate was 7.0 percent. The number of registered unemployed increased to 373,595 persons in December from 344,413 in the same month last year. The youth unemployment rate which is applied to the 18 to 24 age group, increased to 9.2 percent in December from 8.7 percent in the same month last year.


  1. Inequality

1980 was the trough of economic inequality in Sweden, with a Gini coefficient of 20, and 17.5% of disposable personal income, after taxes and transfers, held by the most favoured ten percent of the population. In 1980 Sweden was the least unequal country in the world in terms of income. If the concept is widened to include the country’s relatively low existential gender inequality and vital equality of life and health, and its popularly organized democracy of power, it was arguably the least unequal country of the world. In 275 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities, income disparity has increased since 2011. Overall, Sweden has been prospering, with the average income rising steadily, but this trend has not been evenly distributed. The top 20% of the population now earn four times as much as the bottom 20%.


  1. Economic Issues

Economic activity in Sweden slowed down markedly in the first half of 2019 after several years of relatively brisk growth. Real GDP growth is forecast to fall to 1.1% in 2019 as domestic demand growth turns slightly negative. Economic growth is expected to stabilise in 2020 and pick up modestly to 1.4% in 2021, as exports are set to weaken and domestic demand to recover slowly. Employment  growth slowed markedly in the first half of 2019, in line with the slowdown in domestic demand. According to Statistics Sweden, the recent sharp rise in the registered unemployment rate, however, had been somewhat overstated  in the statistics due to methodological changes in the Labour Force Survey, and the figures will be reviewed in the period ahead. Against this background, the labour market outlook is forecast to mirror economic activity  in line with prevailing trends. Employment is thus expected to broadly stagnate in 2020 and pick up only slightly in 2021, while the unemployment rate should further increase to 7.2% in 2021. Social partners have started negotiations on a new multi-annual  wage agreement. Given the weak labour market, wage growth is expected to remain broadly stable despite continued shortages of skilled labour.


  1. Irresponsible Use of Resources

The percentage of recycled waste by households has increased from 38 percent in 1975 to at least 99 percent in 2019. In 2001, 22 percent of rubbish was landfilled in Sweden, however, today the landfilled waste share is only one percent of the total produced. As the policy of zero waste has seen the country running out of rubbish, Sweden has begun importing waste, with a four-fold increase between 2005 and 2014. Almost 2.3 million tonnes of waste was imported from the UK, Norway, Ireland and other countries in 2016. But unlike regular imports Sweden does not make any payments for receiving other countries’ waste, rather it is paid to do so. However, There’s been a big rise in how much plastic waste Sweden produces, up 40 percent in just the last six years. The new figure comes from a study by the Environmental Protection Agency. This includes all plastic being thrown away, including that from factories and farms. The EPA says there is a lack of systems to allow building firms, industrial operations and hospitals to separate plastic from other waste. In addition only a minority of local municipalities have places to collect plastic items such as old garden furniture or plant pots. It warns that burning plastic is making it harder to reach the climate goal of zero net emissions by 2045 at the latest.