Sweden prides itself on the Swedish Model. Basically it’s a form of social democracy. Watered down socialism if you will. What that means is that Sweden has some of the highest taxes in the world. It also means that people have a lot of things handed to them by the government. University is free, students receive money for studying, parents receive money for their kids (barnbidrag), healthcare is socialized, money is handed out to the unemployed.
I went to one of the unemployment offices here in Stockholm earlier in the summer to register my CV in hopes of getting a job. I got on one of the computers and went through all of the work and education history and got myself registered. I went to the front desk like the computer instructed me and the first question I received was not something to do with actual work. I was asked if I was going to be registering for unemployment payments. The very first question. I politely informed them that actually I wanted a job. They were of little help. I left. Dismayed. I came to find out later that they post all of the available jobs online and that the only reason to register at the unemployment office is to get money. Which is strange. I thought the idea of an unemployment office was to help people become un-unemployed. I was wrong.
Anyway, the Swedes, while they complain about high taxes don’t seem to mind so much when it comes down to it because of all the free money available. Free I suppose is relative when you consider the taxes paid but stay with me. A year ago a more conservative government was voted into office and set about lowering taxes. This was met, surprisingly to me, with backlash. People didn’t want to pay lower taxes; they wanted a big pot of tax revenue to claim from.
Finally I understand why. Swedes cheat the system (you really need to read this to grasp the ridiculousness of it all). Apparently, 95% of Swedes take advantage of the Swedish Model. First, I have to commend the Swedes for their honesty. Amazing that this many people would admit to cheating their own government out of money.
This statistic doesn’t mean 95% of the population is out there committing fraud, pretending to be sick, or pretending to pop out extra babies. It means that they are taking advantage of loopholes, legal ones technically, to get as much money as they can. Of course, there are some people who are just cheating the system completely, 16% admitted to “seriously cheat[ing] the public sector.”
The article from Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish) states that this is often swept under the rug because the extent of the cheating of the system reflects poorly on the people in charge, namely the politicians and everyone in charge of these social welfare organizations. Great. So the general population is cheating the system and the people in charge of making sure that doesn’t happen are embarrassed and not willing to discuss it in order to fix it. Sounds like the perfect way for a country to handle their tax revenue.
A few years ago Sweden had commercials running on TV showing an old decrepit park. No grass on the soccer field, beat up swing set, you know, the sad downtrodden playgrounds of the inner city. Then they contrasted that with a bright green field with new playground equipment and played up how beautiful it was. Then the tagline: “Jobba vitt,” they even had a website. Jobba vitt translates literally to work white or, more to the point, work and pay your taxes. To “jobba svart” is to work under the table and actually keep all the money you earn. Can’t be having that. While it amazed me at the time that they actually had to have commercials because so many people were cheating the system, it amazes me even more now that the problem obviously still persists (I feel fairly confident in saying that 95% is a problem) and they DON’T have commercials.
Ladies and gentleman, the Swedish Model.