The Universal Right to Achieve
There are a lot of myths that surround the policies of “free” or “universal” healthcare and other social welfare systems, and most of them are just that – myths. In Sweden, the ideas and policies behind universal healthcare, childcare, and education are rooted in the fundamental belief that everyone should get access to these basic life necessities, regardless of the income bracket into which they were born, to reach the height of their potential. In other words, the quintessentially “American Dream,” or the idea that anyone can become anything, regardless of their background, is alive and well in Sweden and its Nordic neighbors.
High Taxes. Level Playing Field.
Swedes pay notoriously high taxes, but if you ask a Swede if they mind, they will almost surely answer with a resounding no. Swedes are happy to pay their share in taxes because of what they receive in return – a comprehensive social welfare system from birth to old age, that enables Swedish residents to live without fear of losing their healthcare if they lose their job or simply choose to leave it, to never have to choose between paying for childcare or health insurance premiums, or to never be forced to not pursue higher education because it is cost-prohibitive.
In Sweden, healthcare and dental care are 100% free until the age of 20, and thereafter cost a maximum of $120 per year, even if you need complex surgery or have a serious medical condition. Healthcare is not tied to one’s job, but rather one’s status as a resident of Sweden. If you live here, you are entitled to receive access to world-class healthcare. Period.
The same is true for childcare and education, up to a PhD. To begin with, childcare for all children is either free or costs up to approximately $150 a month, no more. It is based on a parent’s salary but is capped at that amount. And most childcare options provide warm and fresh breakfast and lunch each day, ensuring that all children receive nutritious meals regardless of their situation at home.
And if you or your child choose to attend university, it is also free. Sweden is home to some of the top universities and research institutes in the world, where what is required is that you qualify, not that you pay.
Swedish Innovation – Past, Present, & Future
Historically, Sweden has been able to have an outsized impact - relative to its population – on the global stage. It fostered the creation of Ericsson, of one the most innovative global telecommunication companies; IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer; H&M, the world’s second largest clothing retailer; Spotify, the world’s most used music streaming service; Skanska, a global leader in building construction and project development; Electrolux, the world’s second largest home appliances manufacturer; and Volvo, one of the most popular automotive brands – all with half the population of the state of Florida. And the key to the success of these extraordinary companies has been the implicit compact between the private and public sectors that an export-based economy will always be an integral part of Sweden’s role on the global stage.
Sweden is also one of the leading countries regarding meeting and exceeding the Paris Agreement targets, and has gone even further, passing the Climate Act in 2018, providing that Sweden must reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest, with the aim of becoming the world’s first fossil free nation.
And now Sweden is focused on the future and rapidly becoming a leading player in the creation of green industrial technologies by furthering the decarbonization of the “dirtiest” industries – including steel, cement, shipping, long-haul transportation, raw material extraction, and aviation – that resist electrification. The green industrial breakthroughs, including the world’s first fossil-free steel, the world’s greenest car batteries, the world’s greenest servers, and the world’s greenest raw materials are being developed by Swedish companies that share this vision with the Swedish state, creating a rapidity in scale and breadth of reach that would otherwise be impossible without such aligned dual tracks.
We Dare You to Invent!
Sweden is not only home to some of the most profitable and innovative companies in the world, but also a robust startup scene including the success stories of Spotify, Skype, and Minecraft, to recent billion-dollar green technology powerhouses including H2 Green Steel, Hybrit, and Northvolt. And this is no coincidence. In Sweden, you are encouraged to invent new ideas and start new companies, with plentiful options for grant monies and startup capital, along with healthcare, childcare, and parental leave not tied to your job, but to your status as a resident.
If you decide to start a new company and take a chance, you do not have to add healthcare or medical bills to that risk. And if you have children or become pregnant, you are still entitled to free childcare and parental leave, with the amount of parental leave computed at the average salary for someone in your position and field at an established company, not a startup.
In Sweden, we don’t believe that fear should keep you from having a family, starting a company, or changing careers, or that your parents’ choices should dictate your future. Rather, we ask you to strive for what you would if you weren’t afraid – if your fellow citizens decided that a part of a what they earn every year is given back so everyone gets the same chance to dream and achieve (and maybe just save the planet!).
In Sweden, we welcome dreamers. Especially the American kind.