Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden, is a northern European Scandinavian nation. It is bounded on the west by Norway and on the east by Finland, and on the southwest by Denmark through a bridge-tunnel across the resund. Sweden is the third-largest nation in the European Union by size, covering 450,295 square kilometers (173,860 square miles), and has a population of over 9.9 million. As a result, Sweden has a low population density of 21 people per square kilometer (54/sq mi), with the southern part of the nation having the greatest concentration. Around 85 percent of the population lives in cities.
Since prehistoric times, Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden, developing as the Geats/Götar and Swedes/Svear and becoming the sea people known as the Norsemen. Southern Sweden is mostly agricultural, while the northern part of the country is largely wooded. Sweden is located within the Fennoscandia geographical region. Due to considerable marine influence, the climate is often very moderate given its northerly latitude, yet maintains warm continental summers. Sweden is now both a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with a monarch serving as head of state. Stockholm, the capital city, is also the country’s most populated city. Legislative authority is vested in the Riksdag, a 349-member unicameral legislature. The government, headed by the prime minister, exercises executive authority. Sweden is a unitary state comprised of 21 counties and 290 municipalities at the moment.
During the Middle Ages, Sweden became an autonomous and united nation. It extended its holdings in the 17th century to create the Swedish Empire, which remained one of Europe’s major powers until the early 18th century. Swedish holdings beyond the Scandinavian Peninsula steadily dwindled during the 18th and 19th centuries, culminating in Russia’s acquisition of modern-day Finland in 1809. Sweden’s last active involvement in a war was in 1814, when Norway was forced forcefully into personal union. Since then, Sweden has remained at peace, adhering to an official posture of foreign policy neutrality. Sweden’s union with Norway was peacefully dissolved in 1905, resulting in the establishment of the country’s present boundaries. Though Sweden maintained a nominal neutral position throughout both world wars, it participated in humanitarian initiatives, such as accepting refugees from German-occupied Europe.
Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995, but rejected NATO and Eurozone membership after a vote. Additionally, it is a member of the United Nations, the Nordic Council, the European Council, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that offers universal health care and access to post-secondary education for its people. It has the eighth-highest per capita income in the world and scores highly on a variety of performance indicators, including quality of life, health, education, civil rights protection, economic competitiveness, equality, prosperity, and human development.
Sweden is located in Northern Europe, west of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, and comprises the eastern portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The Scandinavian mountain chain (Skanderna) divides Sweden and Norway to the west. Finland is situated to the north-east of it. It has maritime borders with Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and the resund Bridge connects it to Denmark (southwest). Its border with Norway (1,619 km long) is Europe’s longest unbroken border.
Sweden is located between latitudes 55° and 70° N, and mainly between longitudes 11° and 25° E (with the exception of Stora Drammen island, which is located slightly west of 11°).
Sweden is the 55th-biggest nation in the world, the 4th-largest country completely in Europe, and the largest in Northern Europe, with 449,964 km2 (173,732 sq mi). The lowest point in Sweden is 2.41 meters (7.91 feet) below sea level in the harbor of Lake Hammarsjön in Kristianstad. Kebnekaise, at 2,111 m (6,926 ft) above sea level, is the highest peak.
Sweden is divided into 25 provinces or landskap (landscapes), which are based on culture, geography, and history. While these regions have no political or administrative function, they are significant in shaping people’s self-identities. The provinces are often divided into three major lands: northern Norrland, central Svealand, and southern Götaland. Norrland, which is sparsely inhabited, covers almost 60% of the nation. Sweden also includes the Vindelfjälllen Nature Reserve, which is one of Europe’s biggest protected areas, covering 562,772 hectares (approx. 5,628 km2).
Around 15% of Sweden is located north of the Arctic Circle. Southern Sweden is mostly agricultural, with growing forest cover to the north. Forests comprise about 65 percent of Sweden’s entire land area. The greatest population density is found in southern Sweden’s resund Region, along the western coast up to central Bohuslän, and in the basin of Lake Mälaren and Stockholm. Sweden’s biggest islands are Gotland and land, while its largest lakes are Vänern and Vättern. Vänern is Europe’s third biggest lake, after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in Russia. Together with the third and fourth biggest lakes, Mälaren and Hjälmaren, these lakes cover a considerable portion of southern Sweden. With the construction of the Göta Canal in the nineteenth century, Sweden’s vast waterway availability across the south was utilized, reducing the potential distance between the Baltic Sea south of Norrköping and Gothenburg by using the lake and river network to assist the canal.
Despite its northern location, much of Sweden enjoys a moderate climate with four distinct seasons and pleasant temperatures all year. The country’s climate may be classified into three types: oceanic climate in the south, humid continental climate in the center, and subarctic climate in the north. However, due to the Gulf Stream, Sweden is considerably warmer and drier than other locations at a comparable latitude, and even somewhat farther south. Central and southern Sweden, for example, enjoys considerably warmer winters than many areas of Russia, Canada, and the northern United States. The duration of daylight fluctuates significantly due to its high latitude. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets during the summer and never rises during the winter. In late June, daylight lasts more than 18 hours in Stockholm, but only around 6 hours in late December. Every year, Sweden gets between 1,100 and 1,900 hours of sunlight.
Temperatures vary dramatically from north to south. The southern and central parts of the country have warm summers and cold winters, with average high temperatures ranging from 20 to 25 °C (68 to 77 °F) in the summer and 4 to 2 °C (25 to 36 °F) in the winter, whereas the northern part of the country has shorter, cooler summers and longer, colder, and snowier winters, with temperatures frequently falling below freezing from September to May. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Sweden was 38 °C (100 °F) in Mlilla in 1947, while the lowest temperature ever recorded was 52.6 °C (62.7 °F) in Vuoggatjlme in 1966. Temperatures in Sweden are strongly affected by the vast Fennoscandian landmass, as well as continental Europe and western Russia, which enables hot or cold inland air to be readily transferred to the country. As a result, most of Sweden’s southern regions have warmer summers than virtually anywhere else in the neighboring British Isles, with temperatures even equal those seen along the continental Atlantic coast as far south as northern Spain. During the winter, though, the same high-pressure systems may cause the whole nation to drop far below freezing temperatures. Because of some coastal moderating from the Atlantic, the Swedish continental climate is less harsh than that of neighboring Russia. Despite the fact that temperature trends vary from north to south, the summer climate is remarkably consistent throughout the nation, despite significant latitudinal variations. This is because the south is surrounded by more water, with the larger Baltic Sea and Atlantic air flowing over lowland regions from the south-west.
Apart from the ice-free Atlantic bringing marine air into Sweden, which tempers winters, the mildness is explained further by prevalent low-pressure systems delaying winter, with lengthy evenings frequently remaining above freezing in the south of the nation owing to plentiful cloud cover. By the time winter finally arrives, daylight hours have increased rapidly, guaranteeing that daytime temperatures surge in spring. Because of the increased frequency of clear nights, frosts are still frequent as far south as April. When low-pressure systems are weaker, frigid winters ensue. For example, the coldest month on record in Stockholm (January 1987) was also the sunniest month on record.
Summers are also defined by the relative intensity of low and high-pressure systems of marine and continental air. When hot continental air blows into the nation, the long days and short nights often cause temperatures to reach 30 °C (86 °F) or more, even in coastal regions. Nights are usually chilly, particularly in the inland regions. Because to the moderating sea effect during warmer summers, coastal regions may experience so-called tropical nights with temperatures over 20 °C (68 °F). Summers in the United States may be chilly, particularly in the north. The transitional seasons are usually very long, and the four-season climate applies to the majority of Sweden’s area, with the exception of Scania, where some years do not record a meteorological winter (see table below), and the high Lapland highlands, where polar microclimates occur.
Most of Sweden gets between 500 and 800 mm (20 and 31 in) of precipitation per year on average, making it much drier than the worldwide average. The south-western portion of the nation gets higher precipitation, ranging from 1,000 to 1,200 mm (39 to 47 in), with certain mountain regions in the north receiving up to 2,000 mm (79 in). Despite their northerly position, southern and central Sweden may get little snow in certain winters. The majority of Sweden lies under the rain shadow of the Scandinavian Mountains, which run across Norway and north-west Sweden. The blockage of cold and wet air in summer, as well as the larger landmass, results in warm and dry summers further north in the nation, with fairly mild summers at the Bothnia Bay coast at 65 degrees latitude, which is unheard of at such northerly beaches elsewhere in the globe.
On November 30, 2015, the entire population of Sweden was projected to be 9,845,155 people. According to Statistics Sweden, the population surpassed 9 million for the first time on August 12, 2004, and 9.5 million in the spring of 2012. The population density is 20.6 people per km2 (53.3 people per square mile), with the south having a much greater density than the north. Cities are home to about 85 percent of the world’s population. Stockholm, the capital city, has a municipality population of about 900,000 people (with 1.3 million in the urban area and 2 million in the metropolitan area). Gothenburg and Malmö are the second and third biggest cities. Greater Gothenburg has a population of over a million people, as does the western portion of Scania around the resund. Together with Greater Copenhagen, the total population in the resund region is close to 3 million people on a geographical area of fewer than 6000 km2. The agricultural region of stergötland has a much greater population density than the rest of Sweden. Even outside of Scania and Greater Gothenburg, the western coast is very densely inhabited. Also outside of Greater Stockholm is the region surrounding Lake Mälaren, as well as the agricultural area near Uppsala.
While Norrland (which accounts for about 60% of Swedish area) has a relatively low population density (below 5 people per km2). The highlands and the most of the coast’s isolated regions are virtually unpopulated. Large areas of western Svealand, as well as southern and central Smland, have low population density. Finnveden, situated in the south-west of Smland and mostly below the 57th latitude, may likewise be regarded almost devoid of inhabitants.
Between 1820 and 1930, about 1.3 million Swedes, or one-third of the country’s population, immigrated to North America, the vast majority to the United States. According to a 2006 US Census Bureau estimate, there are more than 4.4 million Swedish Americans. There are 330,000 people of Swedish origin in Canada.
There are no official data on ethnicity, but according to Statistics Sweden, about 1,921,000 (20.1 percent) of Swedish residents were of a foreign background in 2012, defined as being born abroad or born in Sweden to two parents who were born abroad. The most frequent countries of origin, according to the same criteria, were Finland (2.38 percent), former Yugoslavia or its successor nations (2.06 percent), Iraq (1.74 percent), Poland (0.91 percent), and Iran (0.84 percent ).
Prior to the 11th century, Swedes practiced Norse paganism, worshiping the gods in the Temple at Uppsala. The country’s laws altered after Christianization in the 11th century, banning worship of other deities until the late 19th century. The authority of the Roman Catholic Church was removed after the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s, which was headed by Martin Luther’s Swedish colleague Olaus Petri, and Lutheranism became popular. The Uppsala Synod in 1593 completed Lutheranism’s adoption, and it became the state religion. During the period following the Reformation, known as the period of Lutheran orthodoxy, small groups of non-Lutherans, particularly Calvinist Dutchmen, the Moravian Church, and French Huguenots, played an important role in trade and industry and were quietly tolerated as long as they maintained a low religious profile. The Sami traditionally had their own shamanistic religion, but Swedish missionaries converted them to Lutheranism in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Religious liberalisations in the late 18th century enabled followers of other religions, such as Judaism and Roman Catholicism, to live and work freely in the nation. However, it was unlawful for Lutherans to change to another faith until 1860. The advent of different evangelical free churches in the nineteenth century, as well as secularism towards the end of the century, caused many people to separate themselves from church rites. With the so-called dissenter legislation of 1860, leaving the Church of Sweden became permissible, but only under the condition of joining another Christian denomination. In 1951, the Law on Religious Freedom officially guaranteed the freedom to stand independent of any religious group.
The Church of Sweden was abolished in 2000. Sweden was the second Nordic nation to abolish the state church (after Finland did so in the Church Act of 1869).
At the end of 2014, 64.6 percent of Swedes belonged to the Church of Sweden, a figure that has been declining by approximately one percentage point each year over the previous two decades. Sunday services are attended by around 2% of the church’s members on a regular basis. The high number of inactive members is due, in part, to the fact that, until 1996, children automatically became members if at least one of their parents was a member. Since 1996, only baptized children have been admitted as members. Some 275,000 Swedes are currently members of different Evangelical Protestant free churches (with considerably greater congregation attendance), while immigration has resulted in 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians residing in Sweden.
The first Muslim congregation was founded in 1949, when a small group of Tatars arrived from Finland. The presence of Islam in Sweden remained minor until the 1960s, when Sweden began to accept migrants from the Balkans and Turkey. Further immigration from North Africa and the Middle East has boosted the Muslim population to an estimated 400,000 people. However, only around 110,000 people belong to a congregation, and only about 25,000 of them actively practice Islam by praying five times a day and attending Friday prayers.
According to sociology professor Phil Zuckerman, despite their lack of belief in God, Swedes often dispute the word atheist, preferring to call themselves Christians while remaining members of the Church of Sweden. Other study has shown that religion continues to have a role in cultural identity in Sweden. This is shown by the fact that, despite having to pay a church tax, about 70% of people continue to be members of the Swedish Church; furthermore, baptism rates remain high, and church marriages are rising.
Sweden is the seventh-richest nation in the world in terms of GDP (gross domestic product) per capita, and its people enjoy a high quality of life. Sweden has a diversified economy that is geared toward exports. The resource basis of an economy with a strong focus on international commerce is comprised of timber, hydropower, and iron ore. Sweden’s engineering sector contributes for half of its production and exports, although telecommunications, the automobile industry, and pharmaceuticals are all important. Sweden is the world’s ninth-largest weapons exporter. Agriculture contributes 2% of GDP and employs 2% of the workforce. The nation has one of the highest rates of telephone and Internet penetration in the world.
Sweden had the third lowest income Gini coefficient among industrialized nations in 2010, at 0.25—slightly higher than Japan and Denmark—suggesting Sweden has minimal income inequality. However, Sweden’s wealth Gini coefficient of 0.853 was the second highest among industrialized nations, and it was higher than the European and North American norms, indicating significant wealth inequality. Even on a disposable income basis, the geographical distribution of Sweden’s Gini coefficient of income inequality differs between regions and municipalities. Danderyd, just outside Stockholm, has the highest Gini coefficient of income inequality in Sweden, at 0.55, while Hofors, near Gävle, has the lowest, at 0.25. The income Gini coefficient in and around Stockholm and Scania, two of Sweden’s most densely populated areas, is between 0.35 and 0.55.
In terms of structure, the Swedish economy is distinguished by a big, knowledge-intensive, and export-oriented industrial sector; a growing, but relatively small, commercial service sector; and a substantial public service sector by worldwide standards. The Swedish economy is dominated by large corporations, both in manufacturing and in services. Manufacturing of high and medium-high technology accounts for 9.9 percent of GDP.
Volvo, Ericsson, Vattenfall, Skanska, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, Electrolux, Volvo Personvagnar, TeliaSonera, Sandvik, Scania, ICA, Hennes & Mauritz, IKEA, Nordea, Preem, Atlas Copco, Securitas, Nordstjernan, and SKF were the 20 biggest (by turnover Unlike many other industrialised Western nations, the overwhelming bulk of Sweden’s industry is privately managed, and government owned companies are of little significance, according to historical standards.
An estimated 4.5 million Swedish citizens are working, with about one-third having completed higher education. Sweden had the world’s tenth highest GDP per hour worked in 2006, at US$31, compared to US$22 in Spain and US$35 in the United States. GDP per hour worked is increasing at a rate of 2.5 percent per year for the economy as a whole, with trade-terms-balanced productivity growing at a rate of 2 percent. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), deregulation, globalization, and the development of the technology sector have all been major productivity boosters. Sweden is a global pioneer in privatized pensions, and pension financing issues are minor in comparison to many other Western European nations. A pilot study using Gothenburg municipal employees to investigate the viability of a six-hour workweek without pay will begin in 2014. The Swedish government is attempting to save expenses by reducing sick leave hours and increasing efficiency.
After taxes, the average worker gets 40% of his or her labor expenses. Sweden’s total tax collection as a proportion of GDP peaked at 52.3 percent in 1990. In the aftermath of the country’s real estate and banking crises in 1990–1991, tax reforms were enacted in 1991 to execute tax rate reduction and tax base expansion over time. Sweden’s taxes as a proportion of GDP have been falling since 1990, with overall tax rates for the highest income earners falling the greatest. In 2010, taxes accounted for 45.8 percent of the country’s GDP, ranking second among OECD nations and almost twice that of the United States or South Korea. Tax-financed employment accounts for one-third of the Swedish workforce, a far larger percentage than in most other nations. Overall, GDP growth has been rapid since the early 1990s, when reforms, particularly in manufacturing, were implemented.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012–2013, Sweden has the world’s fourth-most competitive economy. According to the 2014 Global Green Economy Index, Sweden is the best performing nation (GGEI). According to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2013, Sweden is rated fourth. According to US economist Professor Richard Florida of the University of Toronto’s book The Flight of the Creative Class, Sweden is rated as having the greatest corporate creativity in Europe and is projected to become a talent magnet for the world’s most purposeful employees. The book created an index to assess the kind of creativity that it believes are most beneficial to business—talent, technology, and tolerance.
Sweden retains its own currency, the Swedish krona (SEK), as a consequence of a vote in which the Swedes rejected the euro. The Swedish Riksbank, the world’s oldest central bank, was established in 1668 and is now focused on price stability with a 2% inflation goal. According to the OECD’s Economic Survey of Sweden 2007, average inflation in Sweden has been among the lowest among European nations since the mid-1990s, owing mainly to deregulation and rapid adoption of globalisation.
Germany, the United States, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Finland have the highest trade flows.
Financial deregulation in the 1980s had a negative effect on the housing market, resulting in a bubble and, ultimately, a collapse in the early 1990s. Commercial property values dropped by up to two-thirds, forcing the government to take over two Swedish banks. The property industry grew during the next two decades. By 2014, lawmakers, economists, and the IMF were once again warning of a bubble, with residential property prices skyrocketing and personal mortgage debt increasing. Household debt-to-income ratios surpassed 170 percent as the IMF urged lawmakers to explore zoning reform and other methods of increasing housing supply as demand outstripped supply, driving up prices. By August 2014, 40% of house borrowers had interest-only loans, while the other 40% were repaying principle at a pace that would take 100 years to completely repay.