For members


Sweden’s government launches inquiry into benefits cap

Sweden's government has launched an inquiry into capping benefits so that no one in the country can earn more from social welfare than they could from working.

Sweden's government launches inquiry into benefits cap
Sweden's finance minister, Elizabeth Svantesson, makes the case for a benefits cap at a government press conference on Thursday. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

The country’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, announced the inquiry at a press conference held on Thursday alongside Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson, Social Minister Anna Tenje, and Linda Lindberg, the Sweden Democrats’ spokesperson on social affairs.

“It’s a fundamental principle that it should always be more financially rewarding to go to work than to go on benefits, but today it isn’t always the case,” Kristersson said in a press statement. “That’s why we are taking the initiative to bring in a benefits cap with the idea of increasing the motivation to work. It’s an important structural reform to get more people into work.” 

The promise to put in place a benefits cap was an important part of the Tidö Agreement between Sweden’s three government parties and the far-right Sweden Democrats, on whom they depend for their support. 

Svantesson said that there were currently around 20,000 households in Sweden who get more money by being on benefits than they would if they worked. 

“The subsistence allowance, just to make clear, is not in itself a large payment. But if you have income support and a family, many allowances are added,” she said.

“If you get stuck in what was supposed to be a temporary thing, then it’s a great challenge to move on. It was never intended that subsistence allowance would be a long-term source of income. It is about incentives but also about morals.” 

Maria Hemström Hemmingsson, the Director General of the Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy (IFAU), a state-owned research institute, has been appointed to run the investigation and to make her proposals in December 2024. 

Hemmingsson is already leading an inquiry on subsistence allowance, after being appointed by the former Social Democrat-led government to look at what requirements the government could impose on those receiving the benefit. 

In the inquiry she can either set a cap for the total amount of benefits any single household or individual can receive, or she can suggest reforms which would prevent people from receiving too many different types of benefits simultaneously. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Did Sweden’s PM play politics in his speech to the nation?

After what was arguably Sweden's worst ever week of gang violence, the country's Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, delivered a solemn address to the nation. But how much was he seeking to unite and how much playing party politics?

Did Sweden's PM play politics in his speech to the nation?

It is a rare event for a Swedish Prime Minister to make a televised speech to the nation. 

Kristersson’s Social Democrat predecessor Magdalena Andersson delivered one in the tense days after Russia invaded Ukraine. Stefan Löfven made two during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from those, it has only been the one Göran Persson delivered after the assassination of Sweden’s foreign minister, Anna Lindh, and the one Carl Bildt delivered as the Laser Man serial killer was shooting random immigrants across the country. 

The idea of such a speech is for the Prime Minister to unite the Swedish people, to provide stability, calm and a sense of direction at a time of crisis. 

Kristersson started his speech last Thursday fully in this tradition, with a simple, grave statement: “It is a difficult time for Sweden.” 

But after hard-hitting descriptions of the worst of the week’s killings, be began to point the blame, and it wasn’t he or his government who were at fault.  

“In fact, many of us saw it coming, and gave warning,” he said. “Serious organised crime has been emerging for more than a decade. Over a ten-year period, gun violence has increased threefold. Political naivety and cluelessness have brought us to this point. Irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration have brought us to this point.” 

The message was clear. The fault lay with the “political naivety” of the previous two Social Democrat-Green coalition governments, and just possibly also with the two Moderate Party-led right-wing alliance governments that preceded them. 

If only they had listened to the calls for tighter immigration coming at that time (then only really from the far-right Sweden Democrats), Sweden would not be in this situation. 

Tomas Ramberg, political commentator for the liberal-left Dagens Nyheter newspaper, complained that this was “not a speech to rally the country across political divides.” 

“Addresses to the nation are rare in Swedish politics. They have been seen as a way to unify the country,” he wrote. “Ulf Kristersson used it to convince people that the government is in control of the situation. But also to try to gather greater support for the government.” 

But even many commentators on the right criticised how politicised the speech was. 

“Let’s just say this: I believe citizens could have done with a prime minister’s speech, not the closing statement of a party leader debate in [current affairs programme] Agenda,” complained Peter Wennblad, assistant opinion editor of the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper and a leading right-wing opinion former. 

“I believe Ulf Kristersson would have benefited from holding his speech as a Prime Minister and not as a Moderate,” wrote Moa Berglöf, the former speechwriter for the previous Moderate Party prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, on X. 

Sweden’s prime minister is not alone in playing politics with gang crime, of course. 

The Social Democrats held a press conference on Wednesday in which the party accused the government of having done nothing to combat gang crime.  

“In the election campaign, the government parties promised a new crackdown on the gangs but we’ve seen none of that,” the party wrote in its press release. “Deadline after deadline has passed with no proposals for new laws.” 

Magdalena Andersson, leader of the Social Democrats, called for the government to bring in the military, something Kristersson then promised to do in his speech.

For this, you can hardly blame them. In the election campaign Kristersson, Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson all criticised the government relentlessly for failing to stop gang violence. 

In June 2022, the Moderates and Christian Democrats even backed a no-confidence vote launched by the Sweden Democrats to depose the then justice minister, Morgan Johansson, with Åkesson writing on X, that the Social Democrats’ soft “juice and sticky bun policies” towards criminals had helped turn Sweden into “a gangsterland”. 

“The only people who are pleased with the government’s work are the criminals, those who murder, harm and threaten,” Kristersson wrote. 

It would be naive to expect the Social Democrats to forfeit the chance to get their own back for the ruthless way in which the three right-wing parties exploited the issue.

Similarly, now Kristersson has the near impossible task of combatting gang crime, it is hardly surprising that he should want to remind the public again and again that the shootings and explosions started long before he took power.  

Ideally, the government and opposition would unite, create a cross-party commission, and work together to reduce gang crime, depoliticising the issue and opening the way for evidence-based policies that have a better chance of working. 

Might it happen? One day perhaps. But certainly not yet.