The average Anderssons
Here is a fictive Swedish family, based purely on statistics. Meet the Anderssons.
Statistically, the Anderssons are a very average Swedish family: mother, father, daughter and son. The mum is called Maria, a name she shares with many other women in Sweden. Her husband is called Karl, an equally typical male name. Maria works as a teacher and Karl as software developer, both among the most common jobs in Sweden.
The average Swedish woman has 1.7 children. For pragmatic reasons, we’ll give Maria and Karl an extra 0.3 child, to make them two: a 10-year-old daughter called Alice and a 6-year-old son, William.
A Swedish family with working parents
When Alice and William were born, their mum Maria was on parental leave for ten months and then their dad Karl for eight months. After that, both parents went back to work and the children attended nursery school, just like 85 per cent of Swedish children between 1 and 5.
The Swedish parental leave system was made gender-neutral in 1974 to make it possible for both parents to combine work and family life. Today’s parental leave entitlement is 480 days for each child, which the parents can divide between them as they wish – apart from 90 days that are reserved for each parent. Statistics show that men take about 30 per cent of the parental leave days.
William, who is 6, has just left nursery school for pre-school class, or year 0 as it’s also called in Sweden, while Alice is in year 4 of school.
The average household
Maria and Karl are married, just like around a third of Swedes. But many couples also live together without being married, for which there is a special, slightly odd name: sambo.
So, what’s a typical Swedish household? Well, there are a total of 4.8 million households in Sweden. The most common type is the single household, with close to 2.3 million adults living without another adult – 15 per cent of them with children*. Then there are 2.2 million households where two adults live together as a married couple or as sambos – roughly half of them with children, half of them without. The remaining households are collective, multigenerational, and so on.
If we look at how many people live in the different types of household, the most common type is the one that the Anderssons represent: two adults living together with children, 3.9 million.
But Swedes also split up and move apart. Between 21,000 and 27,000 Swedes got divorced every year between 2000 and 2020. For children of separated or divorced parents, it is common to live half the time with one parent, half the time with the other – often on a weekly basis.
* ‘Children’ here means children of any age who live together with at least one of their parents.
The Swedish school system
These are the different levels of schooling in Sweden:
- Nursery school: ages 1 to 5
- Compulsory school, years 0–9: ages 6 to 16
- Upper secondary school (non-compulsory), gymnasium: ages 16 to 19
School and higher education
In Sweden everyone has a right to education, and the Swedish Education Act mandates ten years of compulsory schooling. William’s pre-school year is the first of the ten years.
Looking at the education level among Swedes between 25 and 64, 89 per cent have continued from compulsory school to non-compulsory upper secondary school, gymnasiet (the equivalent of British sixth form or American high school).
In the same group, 44 per cent have continued studying after gymnasiet, and 29 per cent have finished at least three years of higher education.
Law, medicine, social work, psychology and economics are among the most popular programmes at Swedish universities.
The overall employment rate among 20- to 64-year-olds in Sweden is 67.2% – 64.5% for women and 69.8% for men. This means that Sweden has a larger share of women who work than many other countries.
Around 70 per cent of jobs can be found in the private sector, and 30 per cent in the public sector. A standard Swedish working week is 40 hours – 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. The minimum holiday entitlement is 25 days.
In our average Swedish family Karl Andersson – a statistically typical Swedish man – works as a software developer, which earns him SEK 47,000 per month, or SEK 564,000 per year. Maria Andersson’s teacher’s salary is SEK 36,500 per month, or SEK 438,000 per year.
The salary figures are from Statistics Sweden’s salary search tool (September 2021), and before taxes. Municipal taxes vary a lot depending on where you live but average around 32 per cent. Because of his higher salary, Karl must also pay a state tax amounting to 20 per cent of the part of his yearly pay that exceeds SEK 523,200.
This means that after various standardised tax deductions, Karl gets paid around SEK 34,400 after taxes every month, and Maria around SEK 27,700.
The following are some of the jobs that are in high demand in Sweden: midwife, civil engineer, nursery school/preschool teacher, nurse, doctor, teacher, software and system developer, specialist nurse, dentist, and system analyst and IT architect.
Average monthly cost of living in Sweden
Below is an attempt to give a general idea of cost levels in Sweden. The examples are the average costs for all of Sweden, but actual costs vary considerably depending on where you live. Housing is excluded, because the prices for accommodation vary so much over the country that an average would be misleading. Prices are in Swedish krona (SEK).
If you're single
- Food: 2,810
- Clothing: 510
- Hygiene, medical care: 510
- Sport and leisure: 650
- Local transport: 870
- Unemployment insurance: 140
- Home insurance: 130
- Electricity: 530
- TV, telephony, internet: 1,450
- Cleaning, washing etc.: 130
- Car: 2,750
- Pay services (such as streaming services): 40
- Total monthly costs: SEK 10,520
If you're married or living with a partner
- Food: 5,620
- Clothing: 1,020
- Hygiene, medical care: 1,020
- Sport and leisure: 1,300
- Local transport: 1,740
- Unemployment insurance: 280
- Home insurance: 150
- Electricity: 580
- TV, telephony, internet: 1,750
- Cleaning, washing etc.: 160
- Car: 2,750
- Pay services (such as streaming services): 80
- Total monthly costs: SEK 16,450
Source: Institutet för Privatekonomi/Swedbank (link in Swedish; last update: November 2021)