Not the least its government likes to portray Sweden as a big success story in terms of growth and employment, and not seldom this is what comes out of EU compatison based on the official statistics available.
But the thruth is somewhat different, and a row inside the trade union federation LO during the past weeks have exposed this in a somewhat brutal way.
By tradition, the economist of LO have intellectual freedom, alhough they are supposed to stay politically loyal to LO and the social democratic party.
Now, however, the limits of this intellectual freedom has been demonstrated as a report on the level of real unemployment in the Swedish economy was de facto supressed and the author left his position at LO in protest at this. As a result, the report has gotten far more attention than would otherwise have been the case.
The official unemployment rate in Sweden is 5,5 %. This is the figure the government likes to give out. It’s considerably above the 4,0 % they have as their target – indeed ”the promise” they have given the voters in the last few elections. That’s bad enough.
But in addition there are 4,4 % of the labour force in different sorts of labour market programs. If you add these two together, the unemployment rate suddenly jumps to 9,9 %, which is very much higher, and doesn’t make Sweden that much different from some of the more problematic economies in Europe.
But what Jan Edling – formerly at the LO – claims is that this figure is way too low. A number of other measures, notably putting people on early pension schemes of different sorts as well as on long-term sickness benefits, should add in the order of a further 10 % to this figure.
That’s dramatic. That means that in the order of 20 % of the labour force is unemployed in the one way or the other.
Not much to boast about – mildly speaking. In terms of employment, the Swedish economy suddenly looks like being far more sick than it is succesful.