Welfare in Sweden

Social welfare in Sweden is made up of several organizations and systems dealing with welfare. It is mostly funded by taxes, and executed by the public sector on all levels of government as well as private organizations. It can be separated into three parts falling under three different ministries. Social welfare is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. Education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Research. The labour market is the responsibility of the Ministry of Employment.[1]


The modern Swedish welfare system was preceded by the poor relief organized by the Church of Sweden. This became mandatory in the Civil Code of 1734 when each parish was required to have an almshouse.[2] During the 19th century private sick benefit societies were started, and in 1891 these became regulated and subsidized.[3] The Liberal Party government passed the National Pension Act in 1913 to provide security for the aged [4] and in 1934 the private unemployment societies were regulated and subsidized in a way similar to the sick benefit societies.

In 1961 the private sick benefit societies were replaced with county-level public insurance societies who also handled pensions. The independent and mostly union-run unemployment benefit societies has been more centrally regulated and levels are now regulated by the government.[5]

Social welfare

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for welfare. This is defined as financial security in the case of illness, old age and for the family; social services; health care; promotion of health and children's rights; individual help for persons with disabilities and coordination of the national disability policies.[6] According to the Swedish Defence University, terrorist group members travelling to Syria and Iraq have financed their activities with funds from the Swedish state welfare systems.[7]

Health care

Sweden's entire population has equal access to the public health care services. The Swedish health care system is publicly funded and run by the county councils. The health care system in Sweden is financed primarily through taxes levied by county councils and municipalities. The health care providers of the public system are generally owned by the county councils, although the managing of the hospitals is often done by private companies after a public tender. During the last decade several county councils have started using a Fee-for-service system for primary health care under the name "VårdVal".

Dental care is not quite as subsidized as other health care, and the dentists decide on their own treatment prices.[8]

Elderly care

Elderly care in Sweden is the responsibility of the local municipalities. There are both retirement homes as well as home care, with home care on the rise.

Social security

The Swedish social security is mainly handled by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency and encompasses many separate benefits.[9] The major ones are:

  • "Barnbidrag": Monetary support for children up to 16 (support also available for older students)
  • "Föräldrapenning": Benefits to be able to be home from work to take care of their children for up to 480 days per child. It also includes special benefits to care about sick and disabled children.
  • "Bostadsbidrag": Housing allowances for anyone who otherwise can't afford housing.
  • "Sjukpenning", "Sjukersättning", "Aktivitetsersättning" and "Handikappersättning": Benefits if you are ill or disabled and can't work.
  • "Arbetslöshetsersättning": Benefits for unemployed (time limited to 300 days, five days a week, which means 60 weeks)
  • "Ålderspension", "Garantipension": Benefits for those who have retired.
  • "Försörjningsstöd": Benefits for anyone (and their children) who otherwise can't get a reasonable standard of living. This is given out purely on a need-basis and handled by each municipality's social service.[10]


Education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Research. Education responsibilities includes pre-school and child care for school children as well as adult education.[11]

Labour market

The labour market policies fall under the responsibilities of the Ministry of Employment. The responsibilities considered to be a part of the welfare system includes unemployment benefits, activation benefits, employment services, employment programs, job and development guarantees, starter jobs, and the European Social Fund. Sweden has state-supported union unemployment funds.[12]

See also


Further reading


  • Bucken-Knapp, Gregg (2009). Defending the Swedish Model: Social democrats, trade unions, and labor migration policy reform. Lexington Books. 
  • Hort, Sven E O (2014) Social policy, welfare state, and civil society in Sweden. Vol. 1, History, policies, and institutions 1884-1988. Lund: Arkiv förlag
  • Hort, Sven E O (2014) Social policy, welfare state, and civil society in Sweden. Vol. 2, The Lost World of Social Democracy 1988-2015. Lund: Arkiv förlag
  • Schall, Carly Elizabeth (2016). The Rise and Fall of the Miraculous Welfare Machine: Immigration and Social Democracy in Twentieth-Century Sweden. Cornell University Press. 



  1. "Regeringskansliet med departementen" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  2. "26. Cap. Huru almänne hus skola byggas.". Sweriges Rikes Lag - Gillad och Antagen på Riksdagen Åhr 1734 (PDF) (in Swedish). Bygninga balk. Stockholm: P.A. Norstedt & Söner. 1841 [1734]. Retrieved 2011-05-09.
  3. Lester B. Orfield (2002). The Growth of Scandinavian Law. The Lawbook Exchange Ltd. p. 299. Retrieved 2011-05-09. Up to 1951 the Swedish sickness insurance system has been that of subsidization of private sick benefit societies or sjukkassor. Since 1891 these societies have been subjected to more and more state supervision. At the same time they have received subsidies from both the national and local governments.
  4. Lag om allmän pensionsförsäkring den 30 juni 1913.
  5. Lag (1997:238) om arbetslöshetsförsäkring (in Swedish)
  6. "Socialdepartementets ansvarsområden" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  7. M. Normark, M. Ranstorp & F. Ahlin (2017). Finansiella aktiviteter kopplade till personer från Sverige och Danmark som anslutit sig till terrorgrupper i Syrien och Irak mellan 2013 - 2016 (PDF). Swedish Defence University / Centrum för asymmetriska hot- och terrorismstudier (CATS). p. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 September 2017. Nuvarande beteendemönster präglas framförallt av innovativ insamlingsverksamhet och utnyttjande av de statliga bidragssystemen
  8. Rikard Lagerberg & Emma Randecker. "Swedish health care and social security". Sweden.se. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  9. "Social Insurance in 10 minutes" (pdf). Försäkringskassan. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  10. "Ekonomiskt bistånd" (in Swedish). Government offices of Sweden. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
  11. "Ansvarsområden" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  12. Anders Kjellberg and Christian Lyhne Ibsen "Attacks on union organizing: Reversible and irreversible changes to the Ghent-systems in Sweden and Denmark" in Trine Pernille Larsen and Anna Ilsøe (eds.)(2016) Den Danske Model set udefra (The Danish Model Inside Out) - komparative perspektiver på dansk arbejdsmarkedsregulering, Copenhagen: Jurist- og Økonomforbundets Forlag (pp.279-302)
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