How do you think it compares with the US? Better? Worse?
If you would have asked me 8-10 years ago I would have been more sceptic towards the Swedish system, and more positive to the American. The systems are, and have been the last 90 years - very different. The Swedish system changed a bit 1991-2006, and alot since 2006.
What few people, even in Sweden, know is that most wealth transfers in Sweden (probably 1/4 of GDP) is not from rich to poor, but "demographically" from working people to non working people like children av elders. The average Swede pay no taxes and get loads of benefits at the age of 0-20 and >65, and the other way around 21-64. The system was created by social democrats 1930-1991, but since the power shift (to center right governemnt) in 2006 the system is just adjusted - not scrapped. My conclusion is that most people like the general principle of the system.
Some of the norms in the system might seem "socialistic", but could be argued to strenghten individual freedom and competition (even by me, who voted for the center-right government). A HUGE difference from the US is that Sweden is among the most secular country in the world. More focused on individual rights rather than "family". Public pension, free school, free health care and free care of elders makes individuals less dependent on family, friends and so on (we do have family and friends though
). Much of the differences between US and Sweden stems from this, and before dismissing it as "bad", you should take into account that a majority of the people like it that way. It is a different mindset.
With 80% of workers organized the unions and their http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltsj%C3%B6baden_Agreement
is strong. Collective bargaining of salary have the effect that strong corporations live and thrive while weak ones are forced creative destruction. In the right dose, done right, this forces international competetiveness. This worked well in Sweden 1945-1969, not so good 1970-1992 and then again pretty good from the early 1990:s. In the slump 2007-2009 a new model saw the light of day, when for example Scania made everyone (even CEO) to work 80% time and got 90% of salary for a year or so. The last 20 years the Swedish economy has gained ground as far as global competetiveness goes. From 20:th place and falling to top three and gaining ground. My opinion is to not change what is not broken.
The health care system of Sweden I mean is superior to the US. Everyone is covered (excellent quality health care) for the cost of about 10-11% of GDP. In the US quality of health care is generally excellent, but not everyone are covered and the cost is eye ewatering 18% of GDP and rising. For me this is not about religion, politics or principle - but economy. I pay about 10% income tax to my local regional government, whose principal responsibility is helath care. As stated - everyone is covered. My kids (who don´t pay tax) and the guy sleeping on the street.
The public pension system of Sweden, as many (most) is a result of old sins. Even though it is not good at all, it is better than most. During the 1960:s the governemnt promised people excellent pensions but did not fund it. The system was about to collapse and had a total overhaul in the 1990:s. The big thing with the reform is that the payment to the system is defined (employers pay 16% on top of salary), and if the inflow is not enough to meet issued promises, the payout is decreased. The system automaticly balances itself wich is great for the public finances. Principally I like the notion of "public pension". Since it makes competition though low pensions impossible, it gives corporations equal conditions (no race for the bottom). I would like to have a funded, premium based system though. Like the other account, that recieves 2,5% of salary. If so I would not have to pay 18,5% on top of salary, but more like 7,5-8,0%. As stated - old sins. US also have "old sins". Paying cops low salary but giving them 50% of salary pension after 20 years seem... 1940:isch. And also erratic and potentially extremely expensive.
Another thing I like about Sweden is the "credit rating". Or lack of it I should say. If I apply for a credit card or loan the statement will tell my income last three years, if I am married or not and if I have during the last five years not payed bills or debt. Thats it. If you want to "increase" your "credit score" - make more money. Reading about you guys taking on debt you don´t need to strategically inhance credit score seems horrible.
I like americans "just do it" attitude. And some thing is alot cheper in the US. Food, clothes, electronics, housing, cars... This gives some flexibility.