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Facts About Sweden

Background: A military power during the 17th century, Sweden has not participated in any war in almost two centuries. An armed neutrality was preserved in both World Wars. Sweden’s long-successful economic formula of a capitalist system interlarded with substantial welfare elements has recently been undermined by high unemployment, rising maintenance costs, and a declining position in world markets. Indecision over the country’s role in the political and economic integration of Europe caused Sweden not to join the EU until 1995, and to forgo the introduction of the euro in 1999.
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Capital: Stockholm
Currency: 1 Swedish krona (SKr) = 100 oere

Geography of Sweden

Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, Kattegat, and Skagerrak, between Finland and Norway
Geographic coordinates: 62 00 N, 15 00 E
total: 449,964 sq km
land: 410,934 sq km
water: 39,030 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 2,205 km
border countries: Finland 586 km, Norway 1,619 km
Coastline: 3,218 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: agreed boundaries or midlines
territorial sea: 12 nm (adjustments made to return a portion of straits to high seas)
Climate: temperate in south with cold, cloudy winters and cool, partly cloudy summers; subarctic in north
Terrain: mostly flat or gently rolling lowlands; mountains in west
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
highest point: Kebnekaise 2,111 m
Natural resources: zinc, iron ore, lead, copper, silver, timber, uranium, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 7%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 1%
forests and woodland: 68%
other: 24% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,150 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: ice floes in the surrounding waters, especially in the Gulf of Bothnia, can interfere with maritime traffic
Environment – current issues: acid rain damaging soils and lakes; pollution of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea
Environment – international agreements:
party to:  Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified:  Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography – note: strategic location along Danish Straits linking Baltic and North Seas

People of Sweden

Sweden has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and one of the lowest birth rates. The country’s largest ethnic and linguistic minorities include 15,000 Lapps and 50,000 indigenous Finnish speakers in the north as well as 960,000 immigrants mainly from the Nordic countries, but also from Asia, Africa, South America, and the rest of Europe. More than 1 million people, one-eighth of the population, are either foreign born or the children of immigrants.

Swedish is a Germanic language related to Danish and Norwegian but different in pronunciation and orthography. English is by far the leading foreign language, particularly among students and those under age 50.

Sweden has an extensive child-care system that guarantees a place for all young children from 2-6 years old in a public day-care facility. From ages 7-16, children attend compulsory comprehensive school. After completing the ninth grade, 90% attend upper secondary school for either academic or technical education.

Swedes benefit from an extensive social welfare system that provides for childcare and maternity and paternity leave, a ceiling on health care costs, old-age pensions, and sick leave among other benefits. Parents are entitled to a total of 12 months’ paid leave between birth and the child’s eighth birthday, with one of those months reserved specifically for the father. A ceiling on health care costs makes it easier for Swedish workers to take time off for medical reasons.

Population: 9,001,774 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  18.19% 
15-64 years:  64.53% 
65 years and over:  17.28%
Population growth rate: 0.02% 
Birth rate: 9.91 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 10.61 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 3.47 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  79.71 years
male:  77.07 years
female:  82.5 years 
Total fertility rate: 1.53 children born/woman 
noun: Swede(s)
adjective: Swedish
Ethnic groups: indigenous population: Swedes and Finnish and Sami minorities; foreign-born or first-generation immigrants: Finns, Yugoslavs, Danes, Norwegians, Greeks, Turks
Religions: Lutheran 87%, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist
Languages: Swedish
note: small Lapp- and Finnish-speaking minorities
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99% (1979 est.)

History of Sweden

During the seventh and eighth centuries, the Swedes were merchant seamen well known for their far-reaching trade. In the ninth century, Nordic Vikings raided and ravaged the European continent as far as the Black and Caspian Seas. During the 11th and 12th centuries, Sweden gradually became a unified Christian kingdom that later included Finland. Queen Margaret of Denmark united all the Nordic lands in the “Kalmar Union” in 1397. Continual tension within the countries and within the union gradually led to open conflict between the Swedes and the Danes in the 15th century. The union’s final disintegration in the early 16th century brought on a long-lived rivalry between Norway and Denmark on one side and Sweden and Finland on the other

In the 16th century, Gustav Vasa fought for an independent Sweden and crushed an attempt to restore the Kalmar Union and laid the foundation for modern Sweden. At the same time, he broke with the Catholic Church and established the Reformation. During the 17th century, after winning wars against Denmark, Russia, and Poland, Sweden-Finland (with scarcely more than 1 million inhabitants) emerged as a great power. Its contributions during the Thirty Years War under Gustav II Adolf (Gustavus Adolphus) determined the political as well as the religious balance of power in Europe. By 1658, Sweden ruled several provinces of Denmark as well as what is now Finland, Ingermanland (in which St. Petersburg is located), Estonia, Latvia, and important coastal towns and other areas of northern Germany.

Russia, Saxony-Poland, and Denmark-Norway pooled their power in 1700 and attacked the Swedish-Finnish empire. Although the young Swedish King Karl XII (also known as Charles XII) won spectacular victories in the early years of the Great Northern War, his plan to attack Moscow and force Russia into peace proved too ambitious; he fell in battle in 1718. In the subsequent peace treaties, the allied powers, joined by Prussia and England-Hanover, ended Sweden’s reign as a great power.

Sweden suffered further territorial losses during the Napoleonic wars and was forced to cede Finland to Russia in 1809. The next year, the Swedish King’s adopted heir, French Marshal Bernadotte, was elected Crown Prince as Karl Johan by the Riksdag. In 1813, his forces joined the allies against Napoleon. The Congress of Vienna compensated Sweden for its lost German territory through a merger of the Swedish and Norwegian crowns in a dual monarchy, which lasted until 1905, when it was peacefully dissolved at Norway’s request.

Sweden’s predominantly agricultural economy shifted gradually from village to private farm-based agriculture during the Industrial Revolution, but this change failed to bring economic and social improvements commensurate with the rate of population growth. About 1 million Swedes emigrated to the United States between 1850 and 1890.

The 19th century was marked by the emergence of a liberal opposition press, abolition of guild monopolies in trade and manufacturing in favor of free enterprise, taxation and voting reforms, the installation of a national military service, and the rise in the electorate of three major party groups–Social Democratic, Liberal, and Conservative.

During and after World War I, in which Sweden remained neutral, the country benefited from the worldwide demand for Swedish steel, ball bearings, wood pulp, and matches. Postwar prosperity provided the foundations for the social welfare policies characteristic of modern Sweden. Foreign policy concerns in the 1930s centered on Soviet and German expansionism which stimulated abortive efforts at Nordic defense cooperation. Sweden followed a policy of armed neutrality during World War II and currently remains non-aligned.

Sweden Economy

Economy – overview: Aided by peace and neutrality for the whole twentieth century, Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits. It has a modern distribution system, excellent internal and external communications, and a skilled labor force. Timber, hydropower, and iron ore constitute the resource base of an economy heavily oriented toward foreign trade. Privately owned firms account for about 90% of industrial output, of which the engineering sector accounts for 50% of output and exports. Agriculture accounts for only 2% of GDP and 2% of the jobs. In recent years, however, this extraordinarily favorable picture has been somewhat clouded by budgetary difficulties, high unemployment, and a gradual loss of competitiveness in international markets. Sweden has harmonized its economic policies with those of the EU, which it joined at the start of 1995. GDP growth is forecast for 4% in 2001.

GDP: purchasing power parity – $197 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 3.8% (1999 est.), 4.3% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $22,200 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
agriculture:  2.2%
industry:  27.9%
services:  69.9% (1999)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 3.7%
highest 10%: 20.1% (1992)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.4% (1999 est.), 1.2% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 4.4 million (2000 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture 2%, industry 24%, services 74% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 6% (2000 est.)
revenues:  $133 billion
expenditures:  $125.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: iron and steel, precision equipment (bearings, radio and telephone parts, armaments), wood pulp and paper products, processed foods, motor vehicles
Industrial production growth rate: 3% (1999 est.), 7% (2000 est.)
Electricity – production: 146.633 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel:  5.53%
hydro:  47.24%
nuclear:  45.42%
other:  1.81% (1999)
Electricity – consumption: 128.819 billion kWh (1999)
Agriculture – products: grains, sugar beets, potatoes; meat, milk
Exports: $85.7 billion (f.o.b., 1999), $95.5 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports – commodities: machinery 35%, motor vehicles, paper products, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, chemicals
Exports – partners: EU 55% (Germany 11%, UK 10%, Denmark 6%, Finland 5%, France 5%), US 9%, Norway 8% (1999)
Imports: $67.9 billion (f.o.b., 1999), $80 billion (f.o.b., 2000)
Imports – commodities: machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel; foodstuffs, clothing
Imports – partners: EU 67% (Germany 18%, UK 10%, Denmark 7%, France 6%), Norway 8%, US 6% (1999)
Debt – external: $66.5 billion (1994)
Economic aid – donor: ODA, $1.7 billion (1997)
Currency: Swedish krona (SEK)

Map of Sweden