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Social security in Sweden 1993–2016:

Increased expenditure for social protection

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2018-03-28 9.30

Social protection expenditure increased in 2016, both in current prices and in relation to the GDP. In 2016, expenditure for social protection were 29.5 percent of the GDP. The corresponding figure in 2015 was 29.4 percent.

In 2016, total expenditure for social protection increased by SEK 63.9 billion, or about 5.2 percent. The corresponding increase between 2014 and 2015 was 5.3 percent.

As a share of GDP, expenditure for social protection has varied from year to year. In the whole period, the percentage fell from 36.1 percent in 1993 to 29.5 percent in 2016. Between 1993 and 2000, the share decreased steadily, and in 2000 it amounted to 28.3 percent. In the 2000s, the proportion varied between 27.4 percent (in 2007) and 30.4 percent (in 2003).

Expenditure on elderly was the largest expenditure item

The largest expenditure item was the elderly, which amounted to 42 percent of social benefits in 2016. The second largest expenditure item was health and medical care, with 26 percent of total social benefits. This is followed by expenditure on disability and family/children, which constitutes 11 and 10 percent, respectively, of total social benefits.

Figure 1: Percentage distribution of expenditure on social protection by function, 2016

Chart

Expenditure on the elderly increased by SEK 23.5 billion in current prices, an increase of 4.6 percent between 2015 and 2016. Old age pension, which is the largest item of expenditure on old age, increased by 4.8 percent in 2016. Benefits in kind, such as accommodation and personal assistance, also increased.

Expenditure on health and medical care increased by SEK 14.9 billion, or about 4.7 percent. Expenditure on paid sick leave increased by 5.5 percent, in which both the sickness benefit paid for by the Social Insurance Agency and sick pay from employers increased. Expenditure on outpatient care increased by 5.6 percent, in which mainly specialised outpatient care increased.

Social exclusion not elsewhere classified accounts for about five percent of total expenditure on social protection, and is larger than expenditure on unemployment for the first time. This was also the function that increased the most in percentage terms between 2015 and 2016, by 51 percent (SEK 20.3 billion). This cost increase is largely explained by higher costs for asylum accommodation, which was due to a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers at the end of 2015.

Expenditure on unemployment increased by SEK 1.0 billion in 2016 compared with 2015, an increase of 2.3 percent. The payment of unemployment benefits decreased by SEK 0.1 billion. Expenditure for a number of smaller functions decreased, while the cost of introduction benefits for newly arrived people in Sweden and job placement and counselling increased by SEK 0.5 billion and SEK 0.8 billion, respectively.

Expenditure on disability decreased by SEK 1.7 billion in 2016 compared with 2015, a decrease of 1.2 percent. The largest decrease among cash benefits was in disability pensions, which decreased by 5.5 percent. Among benefits in kind, accommodation increased by 11.2 percent, while personal assistance decreased by 13.6 percent.

Expenditure on family and children increased by 4.6 percent, while expenditure on housing decreased by 1.6 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Table 1: Social protection expenditure by function 2011–2016. SEK millions, current prices
Function201120122013201420152016
1. Sickness/
Health care
260,242 270,422 281,976 296,911 314,925 329,863
2. Disability
132,486 132,783 135,249 136,398 140,216 138,546
3. Old Age
427,187 449,982 479,200 489,960 513,445 536,947
4. Survivors
16,362 16,131 15,632 14,681 14,081 13,685
5. Family/
Children
107,640 111,726 116,673 120,697 125,590 131,384
6. Unemploy-
ment
39,873 43,633 47,184 43,765 44,108 45,112
7. Housing
15,551 16,869 17,317 18,291 18,614 18,307
8. Social exclusion nec.
23,767 24,519 26,592 29,824 39,799 60,049
Expenditures for social protection benefits
1,023,108 1,066,065 1,119,823 1,150,527 1,210,778 1,273,893
As a % of GDP
28.0 28.9 29.7 29.2 28.8 28.9
Administration costs/Other expenditures
19,495 20,815 21,215 22,412 24,468 25,222
Social protection expenditure
1,042,603 1,086,880 1,141,038 1,172,939 1,235,246 1,299,115
As a % of GDP
28.5 29.5 30.3 29.8 29.4 29.5

International comparisons

In the early 1990s, Sweden had the highest social protection expenditure in relation to GDP compared with other countries in the EU. In recent years, Sweden has placed just below the EU average. In 2015, France had the highest level of expenditure for social protection as a share, 33.9 percent, of GDP. Denmark had the second highest level of expenditure for social protection, with 32.3 percent of GDP. Lithuania and Romania were the EU countries with the smallest share, below 15 percent. Turkey had the lowest expenditure for social protection as a share of GDP among all countries presented in table 2.

Table 2: Expenditure for social protection benefits, in the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia and Turkey in relation to (%) GDP, 2011–2015
Country20112012201320142015
Belgium
29.7   29.6   30.1   30.2   30.3  
Denmark
32.1   32.0   32.5   32.8   32.3  
Finland
28.9   30.1   31.1   31.9   31.6  
France
32.7   33.5   33.9   34.2   33.9  
Greece
27.3
p
28.0
p
26.3
p
26.0
p
26.4
p
Ireland
24.7   24.4   23.5   21.6   16.3  
Italy
28.5   29.3   29.8   29.9
p
29.9
p
Luxembourg
21.8   22.7   23.1   22.4   22.1  
The Netherlands
30.2   31.0   31.2   30.9   30.2  
Portugal
25.8   26.4   27.6   26.9   25.7  
Spain
25.3   25.5   25.8   25.4
p
24.6
p
United Kingdom
29.0   29.1   28.2   27.3   28.6
p
Sweden
28.5   29.5   30.3   29.8   29.4  
Germany
28.6   28.7   29.0   29.0   29.1
p
Austria
28.8   29.2   29.6   29.8   29.8  
Total for the EU15
29.1
p
29.5
p
29.7
p
29.5
p
:  
Cyprus
21.5   22.3   24.2   21.7   21.8  
Estonia
15.6   15.0   14.8   15.1   16.4  
Latvia
15.3   14.4   14.6   14.4   14.9
p
Lithuania
16.9   16.2   15.3   15.2   15.5
p
Malta
18.9   19.1   18.9   18.3   17.5  
Poland
18.7   18.9   19.4   19.1   :  
Slovakia
17.8   18.0   18.3   18.5   18.2
p
Slovenia
24.5   24.9   24.7   23.9   23.8
p
Czech Republic
20.1   20.4   20.2   19.7   19.0  
Hungary
21.6   21.3   20.8   19.8   20.0  
Total for the EU25
28.5
p
28.9
p
29.0
p
28.8
p
:  
Bulgaria
16.5   16.6   17.6   18.5   17.9  
Croatia
20.6   21.1   21.8   21.4   21.1  
Romania
16.5   15.4   14.9   14.8   14.6  
Total for the EU28
28.3
p
28.7
p
28.8
p
28.6
p
:  
Iceland
23.8   23.6   23.3   23.7   22.8  
Norway
24.8   24.5   25.1   26.0   27.9  
Switzerland
25.2   26.2   26.9   26.8   27.3
p
Serbia
22.7   24.0   23.3   23.4   22.1  
Turkey
12.3   12.5
b
12.2   12.1   12.0  

p) Provisional data b) Break in time series :) Not available

The different taxation regulations pose a major problem for international comparisons. Some countries regulate taxes on certain benefits, while others do not. In addition, some benefits in certain countries consist of tax deductions, while other countries pay the benefit directly.

Slightly more than half of the social protection benefits in Sweden are cash benefits. Most of these cash benefits are taxable. If taxation is taken into account, the percentage of GDP from benefits in 2016 fell from 28.9 percent including tax to 25.5 percent excluding tax.

More information

This data is also available in a database on Eurostat’s website under Population and social conditions – Social protection.

Definitions and explanations

Social protection is defined here as all services from public or private organisations with the purpose of reducing the burden on households and individuals from specially defined risks or meeting specially defined needs. A prerequisite is that these services do not require a return of services and that they are not based on individual arrangements. The benefits may be either in cash or in kind.

Feel free to use the facts from this statistical news but remember to state Source: Statistics Sweden.

Statistical agency and producer

Statistics Sweden, National Accounts

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