Photo: Melker Dahlstrand / imagebank.sweden.se

Social benefits

The Swedish welfare state is world-renowned for offering comprehensive benefits to residents and employees. This is the who, what, when and how of Swedish social benefits.

The Swedish welfare system is extensive but complex, with different benefits at different times, usually based upon your employment and migration status. We provide a road map to the various forms of support provided, and how you can apply.

Essentially all of the social benefits require a Swedish personal identity number from the Swedish Tax Agency, and many require being registered with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. Make sure to register at both agencies as soon as possible after your arrival in order to ensure your eligibility for benefits.

Healthcare

WHO?
All residents of Sweden with a Swedish personal identity number. If you do not have a Swedish personal identity number, you are strongly recommended to take out health insurance from your home country to cover any expenses before your number is issued.

WHAT?
Comprehensive healthcare, including general practitioners and specialist care, at a very low cost and with a high-cost ceiling.

HOW?
See Healthcare for a comprehensive guide to getting started in the Swedish healthcare system.

Dental care

WHO?
All residents of Sweden with a Swedish personal identity number who have registered with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.

WHAT?
Comprehensive dental care, including orthodontics. All dental care is free of charge for people up to age 20. Adults receive a yearly subsidy.

HOW?
See the Social Insurance Agency’s guide to dental care in Sweden for extensive guidelines and cost estimates.

Use 1177.se’s search function (in Swedish) to find a dentist in your area and make an appointment.

Parental benefits

WHO?
All parents who have a personal identity number and are registered with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.

WHAT?
Generous parental leave (föräldraledighet), with a total of 480 days of payment per child. A bonus is paid to parents who split the time evenly.

All children who live in Sweden are entitled to child allowance (barnbidrag), a monthly, tax-free sum paid to parents until the child reaches the age of 16. After 16, children in full-time education are entitled to a study allowance (studiebidrag). A special large family supplement is paid to families with two or more children. Further, if your household salary is below a certain limit, you may be entitled to a housing allowance (bostadsbidrag).

Additional benefits are available for parents of children with disabilities or illnesses, both temporary and long-term illnesses.

WHEN?
Parental leave can be taken from 60 days before a child’s delivery date up until his or her eighth birthday. Other forms of payment are offered throughout childhood, either as a standard payment or on an as-needed basis.

HOW?
Register with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency as soon as possible after arriving to qualify for benefits.

Sick leave benefit

WHO?
All employees in Sweden with a Swedish personal identity number. You must also be registered with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency in order to receive benefits after 14 days.

WHAT?
When you miss work because of illness, you receive sick leave pay for the days missed, generally at the rate of 80 per cent of your normal salary.

WHEN?
Your first day away from work counts as a “waiting period” (karensdag); you do not receive any sickness pay. After the first day, you receive sickness pay from your employer for 13 days at the rate of 80 per cent of your salary. After this period, you will continue to receive 80 per cent of your salary from the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. (You’ll need a doctor’s note for absences longer than seven days; if you have a longer absence planned, such as recovery from a surgery, you should discuss this with your employer beforehand when possible).

HOW?
If you fall ill, your first contact – after the doctor – should be with your employer. They will make a note of your illness and arrange for you to receive your prorated salary during the period you are away. If your sickness extends beyond 14 days, contact the Swedish Social Insurance Agency to apply for sickness benefit.

Unemployment benefit

WHO?
Employees in Sweden who have been a member of an unemployment insurance fund (arbetslöshetskassa) for at least a year and who have lost their jobs. Being able to stay in Sweden while unemployed also depends on your immigration status.

WHAT?
Unemployment benefit is based on your previous income level (usually 80 per cent up to a certain limit). It is your responsibility to sign up for an unemployment insurance fund, usually administered by trade unions. Your fees and benefits will depend on your field of work and on the fund you choose.

Bear in mind that unemployment benefit is designed to support you during a limited period of time while you apply for a new job. To be eligible, you must be actively looking for a new job and willing to apply for jobs suggested by the Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).

WHEN?
If you become unemployed, you should contact your unemployment insurance fund to find out how to apply for benefit.

HOW?
When you start working in Sweden, investigate if your union offers an unemployment insurance fund (widely known as A-Kassa). Join as soon as you can after starting work and read the terms carefully to find out what to do if you become unemployed. Normally, you will have to register at the Public Employment Service and actively apply for new jobs in order to be eligible.

Pension

WHO?
Retirees are eligible for a guaranteed state pension as well as an employment-based pension. The standard retirement age in Sweden is 65, though some choose to retire as soon as 55.

WHAT?
Throughout your working life, you will accumulate pension that is then guaranteed as a base monthly amount upon retirement. Many employers also make extra monthly payments to a so-called occupational pension, which is based on collective agreements. As such, the Swedish pension system is often pictured as a pyramid, with your basic, guaranteed income pension forming the base of the pyramid, your employer contributions in the middle, and any personal pension savings at the top.

Part of your basic pension, called the premium pension, is in your control. You can choose to place this part of your pension in any of a number of market-based pension funds. Visit the Swedish Pensions Agency’s website for more information on pensions.

WHEN?
Regardless of when you retire, the total amount of your pension remains the same. If you choose to go into early retirement, you should therefore be aware that your monthly payments will be reduced accordingly. It is also possible to keep working beyond the normal retirement age of 65 in order to maintain larger monthly payments.

HOW?
You will receive an envelope from the Swedish Pensions Agency each year with information on your current pension savings. When it’s time to  consider retirement, you can contact them with questions and to find out how to register to start receiving pension.

Elderly care

WHO?
The elderly represent a large and growing part of the Swedish population, with current life expectancy estimates at 84 for women and 80 for men. Many elderly are in good health and lead active lives with support services provided by the state or private contractors. Provided you have a Swedish personal identity number, you will be eligible for the same elderly care as all other residents of Sweden.

WHAT?
A number of welfare systems ensure that elderly citizens are able to lead independent lives. Elderly can live in their own homes for as long as possible thanks to support including meal delivery, cleaning and shopping assistance, and transportation services. Senior housing and retirement homes are also available for those who need more support. Costs are largely subsidised by the state. If you or an elderly parent do not speak Swedish, interpreters can often be provided.

WHEN?
It is usually possible to start receiving elderly care at the age of retirement, or 65. However, this may vary according to various factors; contact your municipality for more information.

HOW?
Contact your municipality or county for information on the support on offer in your area, costs and how to apply for specific services.