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indicator value unit
Population 9.5 mil.
Visitors per year 16 mil.
Renewable energy 35.6 %

How’s Life?

Sweden performs very well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Sweden is the top performer in environmental quality, and it ranks above the average in civic engagement, education and skills, work-life balance, health status, subjective well-being, jobs and earnings, housing, and social connections.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Sweden, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 29 185 a year, more than the OECD average of USD 25 908 a year. But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn more than four times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, around 74% of people aged 15 to 64 in Sweden have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 76% of men are in paid work, compared with 72% of women. In Sweden, only 1% of employees work very long hours, one of the lowest rates in the OECD where the average is 13%. About 2% of men work very long hours, compared with 1% for women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Sweden, 88% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of women than men, as 86% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 89% of women. In terms of the quality of the educational system, the average student scored 482 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), less than the OECD average of 497. On average in Sweden, girls outperformed boys by 20 points, more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Sweden is almost 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 80 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 10.2 micrograms per cubic meter in large urban areas, considerably lower than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Sweden also does well in terms of water quality, as 95% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, compared with an OECD average of 81%%, and one of the highest rates in the OECD.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Sweden, where 92% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 86% during recent elections. This figure is higher than the OECD average of 68%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 90% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 84%, narrower than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points, and suggests there is broad social inclusion in Sweden’s democratic institutions.

In general, Swedes are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Swedes gave it a 7.2 grade higher than the OECD average of 6.6.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.

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OECD in Action

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews Sweden 2014

This report is the third OECD review of Sweden’s environmental performance. It evaluates progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with a focus on Sweden's longstanding commitment to mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases and its management of marine ecosystem services and water.

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Sweden in Detail