Some time ago I had the good fortune to meet on the Internet an actual citizen of Sweden. Since the place has always fascinated me (Thank you, Ingmar Bergman!), I peppered him with questions about it. I mainly asked about its social welfare protections.
Here are his answers. I am presenting them verbatim, with just a bit of boldfacing of Swedish terms, etc., for clarity of presentation:
A SWEDE TELLS ALL
“I got a bit paralyzed with all your listings, but decided to “start somewhere’”. Such a comparison I also find interesting, here in Sweden we have a general bad impression about the social system in US, can be interesting to find out how much of that is prejudice….
Medical aid in Sweden, is not free, but we pay mostly a symbolic sum of money. For instance an operation to remove the appendix (not personal experience, asked a friend) costs nothing at all for the operation, but we will have to pay a little sum when you come in, and a little sum for the room you take up after operation and food. Even a poor person in Sweden would have no problem Getting through that, around 70 – 100 dollars if you don’t need to spend more then 2 days in the hospital, my friend says.
If you need medical aid for a long time we have högkostnadsskydd (attempted translation: ‘high cost protection’). If your medical aid costs more then about $120 dollars, that’s all you would need to pay, the state pays anything above that. This is for the year. Next year its another $120 etc. This includes medicine, if in need of large amounts over a year.
SOCIAL SAFETY NET
When a person loses his job we have something called A-kassa (not sure how to translate, A-cash or A-fund, the “A” stands for the Swedish word for unemployed anyway, so “U-fund” perhaps then in English). You have to have been working steadily and paid the ‘A-kassa’ for 1 year to get it.
What you get: 80 percent of your wages (but with a roof a little less then 100 dollars a day), after 201 days you get 70 percent. After 300 days you only get “A-kassa” if you have a child or children aged less then 18.
[That’s almost a year of high-level unemployment payments, folks, over a year and a half if you have kids! – Nightman1]
If you were paying into “A-kass”’ less then a year, you still get a base amount of MAX 45 dollars a day. Of course you have to consider what things costs before valuing the amount. Having high taxes here in Sweden [Yes, folks, your editor reports the bad as well as the good! – Nightman1] means everything costs more. One LITER of milk is a little more then one dollar, a loaf of bread is 2.8 dollars etc. Gasoline costs so much more that a visiting American would get nightmares (or so I have heard) 😉
After that its welfare. I’m not to sure about the rules here, but in principle you have to do things to get it, enroll in some kind of educating program, search for job, go through medical examination. We do not have food stamps (Don’t know how that works in USA, but if you have to go to a shop and use food stamps, that seems to me immoral. Why should someone have to “advertise” their problems and poverty??), but we get one sum of money each month from welfare that should cover the costs, and the rent is added on top of that basic sum of money.
If you are long term sick, we have försäkringskassan (social insurance office), which gives you the same amount of money as if you were old and on pension. There is no problem to survive on that, and its clearly more then welfare. It easily covers all basic needs and still have enough to buy things that are secondary to survival.
We also have bostadsbidrag (housing allowance). If you fulfill the required demands to get it, it pays most of your rent, and you get more or less depending on your rent. There is a roof, when you pass the roof (too expensive apartment) you do not lose it, but you get only aid up to the roof level, as if.
WORK, EDUCATION, AMENITIES
Your new questions:
1) In Sweden we have by law 5 weeks 100% paid vacation every year, I don’t know how it is in other countries in Europe [Nightman’s Note: I believe every major European country has such a law. I know France and Germany do—both providing 6 weeks’ vacation, I believe.]
2) Higher education is free in the sense that you don’t pay the university or higher schools any money, but you still need a loan to cover food, rent and books. Some take part time jobs while studying. If you are the poorest of the poor you still can take a ‘study loan’, no problem. To my experience you can in some cases even get the whole education for free (including rent, food, books) while being on welfare, but I don’t know how or why, so that’s a vague footnote.
3) We have homeless people here in Sweden but I am not sure why, cause we have a proper social security structure that shouldn’t allow it. Maybe people who gets involved with drugs? No idea…
I have a friend who has been on welfare for more then 10 years, I don’t know to be honest if they can have welfare indefinitely, but what should we do, let them live on the streets? I think that is beyond Swedish mentality. He has been forced into some “educational” programs from time to time. Long ago he also had some stray jobs… To be on welfare is a stressful and depressing situation also in Sweden.
4) English is a natural second language to many here in Sweden and I love English. I Have cultivated my elementary school English by reading hundreds of books by now, and when I write down thoughts I mostly use English.
Thanks for the compliment!
(I think I forgot to mention one thing in the last PM, here in Sweden people cannot get fired just like that, we have strong unions. To kick someone they will need a really good reason. This also goes for hiring people, they can’t just hire anyone they want, anyway they want. Everyone is supposed to have a chance on the available job.)
AND NOW, BACK TO OUR SPONSOR!
Thank you daSpinoza!
As one born in poverty, who has spent much of his life “one paycheck from homelessness”, and who has chronic health problems, I would love to have lived under the Swedish regime.
And, no, folks, Sweden is not a Socialist dictatorship. It’s a functioning democracy. It’s also economically successful. (Check it out. Wikipedia is your friend.)
My commentary on the above appears below.
THIS AMERICAN’S ANALYSIS
For me, the most striking aspects of the Swedish way of life are:
Essentially free health care for all people!
Generous payments PLUS housing allowances for the long-term sick and disabled;
Generous unemployment compensation lasting about a year;
Protection against arbitrary dismissal from a job (Here the usual statement of the common-law rule on employment is that an employee may be fired “for any reason or no reason.”),
A STATUTORY right to those wonderful long vacations;
FREE higher education; and
Generous welfare — again, PLUS a housing allowance, so you don’t have to find yourself and your children “entitled to welfare but homeless”, as so frequently happens in the USofA (because welfare payments are often too low to cover rent here.)
In addition, I’ve read of other countries in Europe providing a statutory right to at least 8 months of PAID maternity leave, and state-subsidized good-quality day care for when mom has at last to go back to work. They probably have those in Sweden too and my informant forgot to mention them because he’s not a parent.
In the USA, by contrast, in the way of help for the unemployed we only have, for all people, food stamps and a maximum of 6 months or less of LOW unemployment compensation, depending on the state you’re in. (And these days the wretched employers often challenge the payment of the unemployment and win, on the basis that the employee was actually fired for good cause.)
And food stamps are a joke. I was on Social Security disability for 5 years, and even for a certifiedly disabled person like me there was only $650 per month disability payments plus — get this! — $125 month in food stamps. That food stamp figure was the MAXIMUM entitlement for a single person. If your income was more than my paltry $650 per month they would reduce the food stamps pro rata.
Oh yes, the food stamp entitlements had not been increased for many years–ten or twelve, I think — despite inflation –, until President Obama had them increased as part of his stimulus package.
Beyond those things, in the USA there is nothing for needy adults but welfare, and welfare is only for custodial parents of minor children. And it is time-limited to a maximum that varies from state to state but I believe amounts in most states to 5 years of welfare in your whole lifetime. Don’t be a broke adult without kids in the USofA, folks! If you become one, you’re headed for the streets!
Further, though we have Medicaid for some of the poor, it is again only for the certifiedly disabled and for parents of children, in most states. Beyond that, Medicaid is actually of little value, because it pays so little to doctors that many of them won’t take Medicaid patients at all.
I know all of the above facts about our “safety net” from direct, personal experience. I got through my disability period without becoming homeless only because I owned my home outright. (I had once made a good salary and saved most of it and then bought a modest house.)
For a look at life in another Scandinavian country, Finland, click here:
PARENTAL LEAVE IN SWEDEN
SEE WHAT YOU’RE MISSING!