Sweden is a small country with a population of only 9.5 million people, but it has one of the strongest economies in Europe due to a variety of reasons including the participation of women and foreign-born residents in the labor market and its gender-equal emphasis. Over the years, Sweden has managed to build a society based on shared values such as democracy, gender equality, and fair and easy access to health care and education as a result of the collective efforts of many involved. Its society is the result of continuous debates and discussions on both the local and central levels, and one important guiding principle has been an open society. In the October issue of the RIETI Report, we present Sweden's Ambassador to Japan Lars Vargö's column "Sweden and the Welfare System" written for our Perspectives from Around the World section.
Ambassador Vargö gives an overview of the measures that Sweden has taken to support economic growth and increased employment, including steps to promote and enhance the flexibility of the labor market, expanding child care and increasing parental benefits, as well as adjusting the tax scheme accordingly to strengthen household finances. Other efforts include assisting foreign-born residents to assimilate into Swedish society and a strong education and health care system. Ambassador Vargö concludes with discussing both the similarities and the large differences he sees between the Swedish and Japanese people, regardless of which, the result is the mutual admiration of both sides of their respective counterparts.
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Sweden and the Welfare System
Lars VARGÖ Ambassador of Sweden to Japan
Sweden is a small country when it comes to population size, only 9.5 million people. However, the surface area of the country itself is one of the largest in Europe. The country has also been blessed with relatively abundant natural resources, such as iron ore and vast forests. It is an advanced industrialized country which from the very outset has looked upon the world as its market. Trade with the outside world has been as important as the air we breathe.
Over the years, Sweden has also managed to build a society based on shared values such as democracy, gender equality and fair and easy access to health care and education. This has been possible thanks to efforts by many, and the results we see today should not be understood as a finished product or an easily exported formula. Sweden's society is the result of continuous debates and discussions on both local and central levels, and one important guiding principle has been an open society.