Sweden Quick Facts
- Capital: Stockholm
- Population: 9,801,616 (July 2015 est.)
- Language: Swedish
- Religion: Evangelical Lutheran
- Area: 450,295 sq km (176, 000 sq mi)
- Currency: Swedish Kronor (SEK)
- GDP(Purchasing Power Parity): $448.2 billion (2014 est.)
- GDP per capita: $46,000 (2014 est.)
- GDP real growth rate: 2.1% (2014 est.)
- Local Time: GMT + 1 hour
- Dialing code: + 46
- Main export partners: Norway 10.6%, Germany 10.5%, Finland 7.4%, Denmark 7.1%, UK 6.9%, Netherlands 5.6%, US 5.5%, Belgium 5.3%, France 4.8% (2013)
- Main import partners: Germany 17.6%, Norway 8.2%, Denmark 8.1%, Netherlands 7.6%, UK 6%, Finland 5.6%, China 5.1%, Russia 4.6%, France 4.1% (2013)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)
With its access to new technology and thriving business, Sweden is crucial for foreign investors seeking opportunities in trade. Sweden also offers a vital location, serving as a gateway to three distinct markets: Scandinavia (25 million consumers), the Baltic Sea Region (100 million consumers), and the European Union (350 million consumers). Sweden serves as an ideal spot for conducting high value-added operations in goods or services or for establishing competency centers to serve the entire region.
In addition to location and technology, Sweden attracts numerous foreign investors due to its highly-educated populace and global business mindset. In 2014, Sweden had the third largest share of private equity investments as a percentage of GDP in all of Europe (Source: European Venture Capital Association).
Business Practices and Culture
When you compare many of its trading partners, Sweden’s business life is often seen as more relaxed and egalitarian. In particular the interaction between a manager and the employee is very open and many times a decision is based on consensus, where the question or issue is openly brought up, discussed and feedback taken into consideration before a decision is made.
The Swedish business climate is known for flat organizational structures and managers who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves. Handshaking is the standard greeting. Swedes do not use many gestures. Keep your voice tone modulated. Swedes are relatively quiet people. Be punctual at all time to both business and social events. Do not show emotion during negotiations. Humor is not usually part of negotiations. Swedes tend to be serious in general, and many may appear forthright in business. Business meetings will usually start on time and will cut immediately to business instead of small talk, which is common in other countries. English is the second language of business in Sweden and is widely used. In most sectors, business meetings should be arranged well in advance. Most Swedes also draw a distinct line between working life and private life. They tend to be serious and honest in negotiations (Source: Visit Sweden).
Increasing Swedish Exports
One of the Government's main objectives is to grow Swedish exports and to get more people into the workforce in order to safeguard Swedish welfare. The Government has set an ambitious employment objective; by 2020, the number of people in the workforce and the numbers of hours worked in the economy must increase to achieve the lowest unemployment rate in the EU. There is thus a need for increased investments in housing, infrastructure, knowledge and an active business policy to achieve this objective. As a part of this objective, Swedish exports must increase. The Government's new export strategy is to make it easier for business to set up operations abroad (Source: Government Offices of Sweden).
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The parliamentary system has been in operation since 1917, but did not become a constitutional law until 1974, when the monarch’s task to represent the country became officially limited. Female succession to the throne was introduced in 1980. The Constitution states that all public power is for the people, represented by the members of parliament. The parliament has 349 members who are appointed for four-year terms.
Some 7 million people in the country are entitled to vote. The 349 members of parliament make decisions and the Government implements those decisions. The Government may also submit proposals for new laws or amendments to laws for a parliamentary vote. Election turnout is quite high by international comparison; although it has fallen to in recent decades, it remains very strong at about 85.8% percent of eligible voters.
Swedish governance as a whole follows a decentralized model. On a local and regional level, municipalities and county councils are autonomous political bodies with clearly defined areas of responsibility. Municipalities deal with city planning and schools, for example, while county councils are in charge of areas such as healthcare and infrastructure.
Sweden has been a member of the EU since 1995. Thus, many new laws enacted in Sweden originate from EU directives (Source: Visit Sweden).
Current Economic Challenges and Opportunities
Presently, there is a great deal of disturbance to the European economic environment, mostly due to the fiscal crisis stemming from the economic troubles in countries such as Greece and Spain, and their problems regarding liabilities and interest rates. To avoid severe economic consequences or even bankruptcy, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and some European countries had to provide emergency loans to Greece and Spain. As part of IMF, Sweden had to contribute as well. Although the financial troubles of these countries are not directly linked to Sweden, they make the economic outlook in the whole European Union uncertain. Consequently, Sweden is seeing some of the negative effects. However, Sweden does not itself have such internal solvency issues, and has managed to shield itself from the worst economic disruption for the past several years. One big difference between the U.S. and Sweden regarding the past recession, for example, was the absence of sub-prime housing mortgages. This is one of the major reasons why the downturn was so extensive in the U.S., while it was fairly mild in Sweden. Another protective strength was the large budget surplus in Sweden.
Additionally, and in contrast to most other EU countries, Sweden possesses its own currency. Although this means Sweden could rely on the Eurozone countries if it had a struggling economy, it also provides greater flexibility; this autonomy has allowed Sweden to escape some of the recent troubles of the Euro.
Like all international economies, Sweden saw some fallout from the global recession; however, it has since managed a notable recovery. When the construction market subsided, it became more important to consider current and future needs during the planning phase of the building process. Appropriate construction materials and technical solutions can provide effective use of resources and in the end give a low running cost for the use of buildings. By renovating buildings, their use lives can be extended and resources and costs can be cut by doing it in an environmentally way. The importance of renewable energy resources and energy efficient technologies is crucial to provide sustainable solutions when the economy is fluctuating, as it has been for the last couple of years. As a leader in renewable energy and sustainable construction, Sweden is well placed to survive a tough business climate (Source: Sustainable Sweden).
Useful Sources for more information:
- Business Sweden – The Swedish Trade and Invest Council
- Swedish Customs
- Swedish Agency of Patent & Registration
- Sweden National Board of Trade
- Embassy of Sweden, Washington DC
- National Tax Board
- Swedish Chambers of Commerce
- The Department of Immigration
- The National Employment Service
Working and Studying in Sweden
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