Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se
The average Andersson family
Andersson is one of the most common surnames in Sweden. The Average Anderssons is a fictional Swedish family purely based on statistics. It’s a perfectly average family of a mother, a father and 1.75 children.
An average Swedish family
The Andersson mum is called Anna, one of the most common names among women in Sweden – you’re likely to meet lots of Annas here. Her husband is called Johan, an equally common male name. The average Swedish woman has 1.75 children. For pragmatic reasons, we’ll give Anna and Johan an extra 0.25 child, to make them 2: a 10-year-old daughter called Alice and her 6-year-old brother Lucas.
Anna and Johan 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. The sambo relationship is possibly a manifestation of Swedes’ love of individual freedom – that some prefer to live together as a family without the (conservative?) legal framework of a conventional marriage.
How does Swedish parental leave work?
Parents in Sweden are entitled to stay at home for 480 days with each child, with pay. A prerequisite is that you’re covered by Swedish social insurance, which most people living in Sweden are. If you’ve got a job, you get paid up to 80 per cent of your salary for 390 days. For the remaining 90 days you get a lower daily pay of SEK 180 (2019). To encourage fathers to take a share of the parental leave, 90 days are reserved for each parent.
When Alice and Lucas were born, their mum Anna was on paid parental leave for ten months and their dad Johan for eight months. You’re wondering how Johan’s colleagues reacted? Not at all. Daddy leave has been a reality since 1974, when the Swedish parental insurance was made gender-neutral. Johan’s colleagues may even have picked on him for not taking half of the parental leave.
With Anna and Johan going back to work, the children attended nursery school (preschool), just like most young Swedish children. That costs a maximum of SEK 1,425 (≈EUR 134) per child per month – just a little more than the monthly child allowance that parents receive from the Swedish state – and allows both parents to combine working life with family life.
As a 6-year-old, Lucas has just left nursery school for pre-school class, year 0, while Alice is in the fourth year of school.
Discover more things that make Sweden family-friendly.
Fully tax-funded schooling
For everyone between the ages of six and sixteen, compulsory school is on the schedule. So from the beginning of autumn term in August to the end of spring term in June, Alice and Lucas spend Monday to Friday in school – apart from during the holidays in between.
Sweden tries hard to be an equal society, which is one reason why everyone has a right to education. No one is supposed to be left behind. The Swedish Education Act states that children in need of special assistance at school should receive it. All children are offered free schooling, including lunch. But as you know, there is no such a thing as a free lunch – it’s all paid for by taxes.
Non-compulsory and higher education
After the tenth school year, the majority of Swedes continue to non-compulsory upper secondary school, gymnasium (the equivalent of British sixth form or American high school). And more than a quarter of all Swedes between 25 and 64 have also continued to some form of higher education.
Read more about the Swedish education system.
Working life in Sweden – and holidays
As a Swede, it’s easy to take for granted 25 days of holiday a year, the Swedish mandatory holiday entitlement. But the fact is that Anna, Johan and other employees in Sweden enjoy some of the highest benefits in the world in terms of holidays, healthcare, pension schemes and employment protection. A long history of labour market co-operation between trade unions and employers has made that possible.
Being a statistically typical Swedish man, Johan works in sales, with an income of SEK 45,200 per month. The most common job among women is found in the healthcare sector, so Anna works as a nursing assistant in elderly care, earning SEK 28,400 per month. The sums are the average salaries for these types of job in 2019.
Like most Swedes, Anna and Johan Andersson usually take a longer summer holiday together with Alice and Lucas. From mid-June to mid-August children are free from school and business really slows down. Foreigners often get the impression that Sweden closes down altogether in July. And Swedes somehow expect others to respect that.
And yes, you guessed it, the Anderssons like to go away skiing on the children’s winter holiday as well. According to statistics, 90 per cent of Swedes can afford to go on holiday (link in Swedish).
Find out more about working in Sweden.
Social security and healthcare
Should Anna or Johan Andersson have the bad fortune of losing their job, they will receive unemployment pay linked to their previous salary, because they are members of an unemployment insurance program. Without insurance, they would still be entitled to an activity grant from the Social Insurance Agency, but that would mean less money.
Similarly, if they fall ill and can’t go to work, it doesn’t have to be a financial disaster. Sick-leave pay from their employer amounts to about 80 per cent of their salary, up to a maximum daily amount (apart from the first day, when they don’t get paid at all). When they go to see a doctor, they only pay a fee of between SEK 0 and 300 depending on the county, or a maximum of SEK 400 for a specialist visit.
The general idea of Sweden’s social insurance system is that benefits should be a temporary solution. Some of the benefits are based on residency and others on work, and different criteria apply in different circumstances.
Read more about healthcare in Sweden.
Last updated: 11 March 2020