InDepth – US vs Sweden Post #5 – Unemployment & Income Equality

This is part 5 of a 6 part series trying to see what we might learn for Sweden.

Unemployment Benefits

In the US
Benefits varies depending on the State you live in. Most States allow you to collect up to 26 weeks of benefits and then you are on your own. Collecting benefits requires weekly check-ins with an agency representative to make sure you are actually looking for work. The amount paid weekly varies from $240 in Arizona to $1200 (if you have children) in Massachusetts. The benefits are funded from a federal tax on employers at 6% of employee wages.

The total monthly benefits range from $1,000 to $5,000 with an average of about $1,600 and are paid for a total of 6 months.

No federal law mandates paid sick days, but nine states and the District of Columbia require employers to give three-to-seven days a year, based on the size of the business. In the other 41 states, employers are not required to cover any sick days.

In Sweden

Swedes get unemployment benefits from two sources. The government gives $40 a day for up to 300 days if people worked 40-hour weeks before they became jobless (less, if they worked fewer hours). And if they have a child under 18, the benefit may continue for another 150 days. However, to be eligible, they must be looking for work and willing to take a job for at least three hours a day.

The second source of benefits is the union insurance plan (nearly 70 percent of Swedes belong to unions), to which both employees and employers contribute. The plans provide 80 percent of Swedes’ wages/salaries for the first 200 days they’re out of work and 70 percent for the next 100. The cap is almost $100 a day for the first 100 days and $83 for the next 200 days.

Total monthly benefits are about $2,200 and are paid for about a year

When Swedes are sick and unable to work, they are paid about 80 percent of their normal daily wages up to $85 a day.

Income Equality

In The US

Americans believe people should have equal opportunities and if they don’t make it, society isn’t obliged to help. There are many who claim that equal opportunity has never existed in the US.

United States has 585 billionaires (more than any country in the world). That comes to a per capita of 1.7 per million.

In Sweden

Swedes don’t approve of enormous income differences and they want everyone to have a reasonable standard of living. Everyone is expected to help by contributing to the system as a sense of solidarity. They know if something happens to them they will be secure because the government will help them.

And, despite the country’s high benefits and wages—which many American conservatives claim strangle competition—the World Economic Forum rated Sweden as the ninth-most-competitive economy worldwide in 2018, beating other European countries like France, Spain, and Denmark.

In Sweden there are about 32 billionaires. That comes to a per capita of 3.1 per million citizens.


Next week I will finish off this series with a post about taxes and a summary about what we might learn from Sweden.


Sorry for not having this series last week. I was one of the fortunate few who got my second COVID-19 vaccine, and it put me down for a few days last week. 😖

2 comments

  1. Sweden is not a socialist country. They are a social democratic country, as is the USA. I just wanted to point that out due to democrats being incorrectly labeled as socialists by some. Socialism involves the government owning all the businesses. I have not heard of anyone suggesting the government own Apple, Intel, Tesla or any other company. Right now in the USA it appears we do a lot of our income redistribution to corporations. Capitalism on the way up and corporate socialism on the way down. All the money given to the airlines, hotels and other businesses is up in smoke. Airlines should have been allowed to go bankrupt. They have done it multiple times and operated fine. Someone else picks up the assets for pennies on the dollar and a new airline is born. The people that take a bath are the equity holders, as it should be. The laid off employees now qualify for unemployment. Many of these companies will end up in bankruptcy any way due to the amount of debt they have taken on. A large number of the companies receiving bailouts had no need for them. They took the money because it was available. I do not propose that we blindly follow the Swedes. What I would suggest is we should be smart enough to look at how many other countries run their affairs. There are lessons to be learned. We choose to be blindly ignorant insisting our way is the best. It is not always true.

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