The Future of Swedish Municipalities

2019-01-16

Swedish municipalities are facing major challenges in the future. An aging population implies an increased demand for care services. At the same time, a decreasing number of people of working age will have to provide for an increasing number of people who do not work. Furthermore, Sweden has undergone a significant process of urbanization that has led to substantially different conditions for urban and rural municipalities, respectively. In addition, Sweden has received a large number of refugees, many of whom are young, which entails challenges for the education sector.

In the SNS Economic Policy Council Report 2019, we assess the existing Swedish municipal model and analyze to what extent it is capable of addressing the challenges ahead. Does it deliver a reasonable foundation for providing citizens with important welfare services, such as education and elderly care? In specific, we focus on the following three issues:

  1. How to guarantee high-quality municipal services at an equal level across the country?
  2. How to finance the welfare state in the future?
  3. How to ensure that local politicians can be held accountable?

The Swedish municipal model, in which municipalities are responsible for providing local collective goods as well as important welfare services, contains an inherent contradiction. On the one hand, municipalities are self-governed and they are supposed to adapt the range of services to local preferences and conditions. On the other hand, national politicians have high stakes when it comes to welfare services, since there is a general understanding that individuals should be offered similar service levels regardless of where they live.

Summary of the report

About the authors

Eva Mörk (chairperson), Professor of Economics, Uppsala University

Gissur Ó Erlingsson, Associate Professor of Political Science, Linköping University

Lovisa Persson, PhD in Economics and Research Fellow at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)

SNS Economic Policy Council

The SNS Economic Policy Council was initiated in 1974 and has since then brought together leading academic economics to write an annual report with independent recommendations for economic policy.

The SNS Economic Policy Council Report 2019 was launched on January 16, 2019 in Stockholm. Commentators at a conference were Tomas Mörtsell, Chairperson of the Municipal Board of Storuman, and Annika Wallenskog, Chief Economist of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. At the SNS Board of Trustees general meeting the same day, Elisabeth Svantesson, Chairperson of the Committee of Finance of the Swedish Riksdag and Spokesperson for economic policy issues for the Moderate Party, commented. The report has also been presented at SNS local chapters and a number of other arenas. The report has received widespread media coverage.