Sweden has long been celebrated as a place that the United States should mimic. A country that maintains a strong government, “free” healthcare and various safety nets to help every single Swede in the nation. Of course, much like what is often purported by Venezuelan apologists, Sweden is slowly collapsing at the seams.
The latest news coming out of Stockholm is that about 40 percent of mortgage borrowers are not paying off their debt, while those who are paying the principal are doing so at a rate that would take roughly a century to completely pay off.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently chimed in and warned that financial instability is becoming a major concern in the land of Ingmar Bergman, Ikea and meatballs. The Riksbank notes that Sweden’s household debt-to-income ratio is more than 170 percent, one of the highest numbers in all of Europe.
One of the primary worries among policymakers is that private consumption could take a hit if interest rates started to climb and property prices declined – housing prices have nearly tripled in the past 20 years, which has led many to warn that Sweden is in the midst of a substantial housing bubble.
With Sweden nearing a general election, much needed remedies are being avoided entirely. Neither political side wishes to talk about raising property taxes or reducing interest rates. High private debt levels, bubbles and indecision are what define Sweden at the moment.
Other underlying economic problems
Over the past several years, median incomes among Swedes have been dwindling – ranked 14th in the latest OECD statistics. A declining number of Swedes are working; it maintains an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. Sweden has also been described as the “sickest workforce,” a jest portrayal considering that the government has created incentives under the Swedish model of socialism not to work at your position of employment.
It isn’t necessarily surprising that 10 percent of working age Swedes are in early retirement, 16 percent of national government’s expenditures are allocated to subsidizing workers’ sick days and employee absenteeism is at one of the highest levels in the region, or the developed world. Of course, as Swedish journalist Ulf Nilson writes, Sweden has the “sickest workforce in the world” as absence from work has doubled during the past five years.
Here is an excerpt from Kevin Williamson’s book “Political Incorrect Guide to Socialism”:
“Sweden has the “sickest work force in the world,” reports Swedish Journalist Ulf Nilson. And Monday is the “sickest day of the week.” “Another way of describing Svenska sjukan (the Swedish Disease) is to say that around one million Swedes of working age (of whom there are some five million) are not going to work today,” he writes. “Or tomorrow. Or the day after. In other words, some 20 percent. Every fifth [working-age Swede]. In spite of everything being said the disease does not strike old women…worse than any other group.” To the contrary: according to the report, the sickliest Swedes are young men, generally believed to be among the healthiest specimens on earth.
“At which point you might say: Oops, there must be something fishy here.”
Indeed, there is.
“…Most of the young men, thousands of them every day, lie when they call in sick. The same goes for thousands of young women. And older people, too. They call in sick, without being sick—and why? Because it has become a habit. And because—very important this!—given the idiotic tax system, you lose very little by not working.”
When someone alludes to Sweden as the beacon of affluence and wealth with limited capitalism and more socialism then you should ask them to cite some statistics without referring to some Marxist material.