SWOT-analysis Sweden

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Project BANDIAR SWOT-analysis of Sweden prepared by BalticFem

Presentations of contacts

In order to elaborate our SWOT-analysis we have met and discussed its topics with different actors engaged in women and gender equality issues both on local, regional, national and internationel level, such as:

  • Elected women politicans, both from local and European level
  • Members of women organisations both from local, national and European level
  • Gender equality experts

We also used online documentation such as official Swedish statistics and published scientific reports from among others the Swedish association of local authorities and regions.



Norrtälje Municipality has 55 000 inhabitants and covers a third of the total area of the county of Stockholm. The population of a typical Swedish municipality is around 15 000. Municipal populations vary widely, however, from slightly more than 2 500 in tiny Bjurholm to over 770 000 in the largest city, Stockholm. Kiruna, which is largest in terms of area at 19 447 km2, has a population of only 23 000, while the smallest municipality in terms of area, Sundbyberg at 9 km2, has around 34 000 inhabitants. The counties have an average population of 424 000. The largest is Stockholm County, which has 1 890 000 inhabitants. The smallest county, Gotland, has 57 000 inhabitants.

Our SWOT grid has been elaborated according to a methodological plan focused first on the analyses of Strenghts points, secondly on Weaknesses and then on Opportunities and Threats. The question we first tried to answer was what has been done successfully in Sweden in order to mobilise and make women visisble in political life and engaging citizens in political dialogue and in participating in elections. When it came to the study of shown weaknesses we asked ourselves what kind of positions women politicians occupy in contrast to men and what kind of resources we lack in order to mobilise and make women more visible in political life and to engage citizens in political dialogues and in participating in elections. Next question was what kind of opportunities there will be and what are the trends and arguments we can use when it comes to mobilsing and making women visible in political life and to engage citizens in political dialogues and in participating in elections.

The last part of our analysis concerns the future threats agains achieving gender equality i.e. the challenges and obstacles we face in mobilising women into political life and making them visible, not to mention engaging citizens in both political dialogues and participating in elections.



We have found that alternate lists (every second a lady – implemented 1994 in the Socialdemocratic party ) is one of the most successful measures taken in Sweden in order to both mobilise women in political life and to make women visible in political life. Every second a lady means that every second person on the ballot lists for parliament, regional office and municipal office should be a woman. Today in principle all the lists for parties that exist on national level are made up this way and even if not all parties have every second a lady as a outspoken principle, in reality half of the electable people on the ballot lists are women.

It was a group of influentual women, politicians from both right and left, debaters and intelectuals, who required increased women representation within the elected assemblies. This group called themselves ”stödstrumporna” (a conundrum meaning literally supportsocks) and had a evident feminist profile and clear demands – if the political parties didn’t listen they would start a new womens party (http://www.jamstalldhet.nu/jmst/rostr/historia/stodstr.htm).

But the parties listened and today every second a lady is normative. This has resulted in a high representation of women in the elected assemblies from Sweden on European, national, regional and local level. Sweden’s 18 European parliamentarians elected 2009 consists of 10 women and 8 men. In the national parliament there is 47% women, the government (ministers in a conservative coalition) consists of ten women and twelve men. In both the regional councils and in the municipalities the number of elected women politicians is 41%. (http://www.jamombud.se/omjamstalldhet/statistik.asp).

That every second a lady at all could have impact and that women representation is so large depends largely on that we in Sweden have a general and well developed childcare. Because of that women in theory doesn’t have to choose between staying at home caring for children and family or work. It is not only possible to do both, it is norm. An increasing number of children attends preschool. The autumn 2008 81% of all 1-5 year old children attended preschool.

Another factor is the parental insurance which is payed out from the national insurance office (Försäkringskassan) from the day the child is born until its first birthday, if you draw out full time seven days a week. The parental insurande gives 80% of the salary you normally have at work. It is statutory that people on parental leave should follow increase of salaries, and there is also a strenghtened protection for the parent on leave to keep his/hers employment. This not to be disadvantaged for having children. The parental insurance is very flexible, three months are dedicated to one parent, the rest is up to the parents to dispose of. You could also choose to draw out fewer days of the week, half or three quarter days, although you have to have used all the days within the year the child is 8 not to forfeit the days. Even though the parental insurance is flexible and give the possibility to the parents to share the days equally, or that the father should draw the larger part of the days this does not happen. It is mainly women that draw the largest part of the parental insurance. Some years ago a third dad’s month was implemented. This means that 3 months of the parental days are set aside for the father and can not be given to the mother. After the implementation of the third dad’s month it is more fathers that make use of it.

The largest contribution to increased women representation in politics we see as the alternate lists. The largest contributing resources is the parental insurance and the well developed child care. Conclusion: We have come quite far with gender equality in Sweden when it comes to the political representaiton, but it took the threat of a womans party, Stödstrumporna and an active feminist debate to make it happen. A decisive cause to the raise of women representation is the developed child care which make it possible to combine family with work and polictial participation.

In order to engage citizens in political dialogues we have found that in Norrtälje Municipality we have had success with organizing charrettes which is a collaborative session in which a group of citizens drafts a solution to a planning problem. The charrettes take place in multiple sessions in which the group divides into sub-groups. Each sub-group then presents its work to the full group as material for future dialogue. This serves as a way of quickly generating a solution while integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people.

A resource in Norrtälje municipality when it comes to engaging citizens in both elections and in political dialogues is a fairly strong media presence in the municipality, cheifly our local newspaper, Norrtelje Tidning. Research published by the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions shows that local communities without local papers that covers the local political agenda have a lower democratic participation. Another resource strength is the Swedish freedom of information legislation. It means (according to the government) that the authorities activities as much as possible shall be conducted in public view. Because of this for example court negotiations and decisive congregations meetings are normally public. An expression for the ”pubic principle” is – the principle of public access to official records. ”To promote a free exchange of views and a comprehensive information, every Swedish citizen have the right to take part of public documents”.



To analyse how the positions women politicians occupy in contrast to men on local level, we made a survey of how the representation is in the municipal council in all boards and municipal Boards of Directors. In the selected municipality  there are 28 women and 33 men out of the 61 members of the town council. In the other boards the distribution were fairly even between men and women, however, it is in the municipal-owned companies’  boards predominantly men. In the case of chairman and vice-chairmanships, it is of the seven boards two female and five male chairmans. The municipal board has a man as chairman. In the presiding committee of the municpal board all are men, except for the secretaries who are women. It is the oposition holding the vice chairs and there the distribution is four men and three women, the second vice chairperson in the municipal board is a woman.

A comparison on national level. JämO (Equal Opportunities Ombudsman) made a mapping of  how the representation of women and men were distributed in the various councils and boards in all municipalities in the country (2003). This is compiled in the publication ”Speaking of women and men”. Within th health care boards 52% were women and 42% men. In the technology/environment and property division 27% women and 73% men. In the finance and administration division 29% women and 71% men. This applies to municipal councils. As for chairmanships, it was 30% women and 70% men and vice-chairmanships were allocating 35% women and 65% men.

SOU (2007:108) state government investigations, has on the mandate of the gender equality minister made a mapping of women and power. It shows among other things, that policy is the area of society that is most gender equal. However, the survey shows that in the leading positions there is an over-representation of men. Swedish national politics is the most gender equal electoral level. At the regional and municipal level, it is significantly more men than women in top positions. There is also a difference between the political parties here, the bourgeois, ie Moderate, Liberal, Center Party and Christian Democrats have fewer female politicians on top, while the Social Democrats, Left Party and Green Party have an equal distribution between men and women, even in prominent positions.

Our conclusion is that it is a weakness that in Sweden we still have more men than women on prestigious posts with responsibility for economy, investments in infrastructure etc, a follow up of the alternate lists on a more comprehensive level is missing. We also find that its a weakness that still male structures are norm for example when it comes to forms for meetings, times etc. Current forms tends to exclude women.

When it comes missing resources to mobilise women in polictial life and making women visible in politics a weakness we identify is also connected to the normative, i.e. what is considered normal. How is a woman politician perceived when she take the same amount of room, i.e. talks as much, as a male collegue? As a nagging bitch or as a engaged politician? We find that what is still missing in general is awareness of what gender norm is and how a more non gender biased attitude can be acheived.

A prerequisite for a functioning democracy is a free opinion formation. A central concept to how the free formation of opinion should be implemented in practice is the ”public sphere” (Rothstein et al. 1995; Petersson 1999). This term refers to a public dialogue where there are some rules, accepted by most participants, on the conditions for this dialogue. The modern Swedish democracy can certainly be described as a medialised democracy. Most people get their knowledge of society through the media. The average media in Sweden amounts to almost six hours per day. Anyone who wants to create opinion have largely try to adapt to the medias way to work, not least when it comes to dramatizing and surprise. Media context and journalistic resources is important, but it is also the municipality’s own information and the availability of venues. Both the personal communication between people and meetings are important, also in a local medialised democracy. The fairly traditional segments, can be complemented by a fourth and newer, digital venues. Internet penetration in Sweden is among the largest in the world and is still increasing (Bergström 2005). An increasing part of the municipality’s inhabitants – and a more representative cross-section of the population – are using the Internet’s various functions. A properly functioning digital meeting place for the municipality is valuable for the local public dialogue. All Swedish municipalities today have their own website. They are hardly the most visited sites overall, but undoubtedly play a greater role as a communication and information channel for the local inhabitants in the first place, but also for others. At the same time varies the content of these municipal sites significantly. This applies to both content and other features that the degree of interactivity, links, and access to archives and opportunities to interact with politicians and administrations. Yet the digital venues of few Swedish municipalities can be said to be fully developed. Some major groups, mainly elderly citizens, are not on the Internet, and there is still much to do to build more democratic-effective municipal websites.

We identified three major weaknesses, and lacking resources when it comes to engaging more citizens to go and vote, particularly in the European election.  Low interest for the EU-election. The image of the European Parliament as the last resort for relief of troublesome old sly dogs of parliamentary parties is widespread and established.  According to the EU’s own opinion poll, 4-12 May 2009, the interest in Sweden for the coming European elections was very low. Only 42% were interested in the election. Lack of knowledge. Generally speaking, 77% of Swedes said that they were bad or very badly informed in the European elections. Many indicated that they did not vote in the European elections because they did not believe to be sufficiently informed to go out and vote. Lack of debate and excitement outside of election time. – From a real power, we should concern ourselves more about what happens in Brussels. Very much of the Swedish policy is decided there. Some who recognize that a European democracy is being built are the politicians themselves. They are on the other hand, very ambivalent. They want people to vote, but still guards the national arena. As long as there are no elections to the EU-parliament local and national politicians play down the EU issues, they do not talk so much about them. This does not work. You can not say that it is important and then not worry about it. Then you get the turnout you deserve. The media is also a cause of the less than lukewarm interest. The European Parliament is very ”unsexy”. It is difficult to understand and the procedures are complex. Moreover, it lacks the dramatic turns we see in the Swedish Parliament, to talk about which party will dominate certain committees easily gets boring.



Opportunities when it comes to mobilizing women in politics

  • Prominent women politicians act as role models
  • Women’s cross-party cooperation
  • Make politics more ”family freindly” and give greater opportunities for women to engage themselves.

Possibilities when it comes to engagig citizens in political dialogues and participate in elections

  • Transparency in decision-making – the ”public principle”
  • Avilability, there are many polling stations, elections take place on public holidays, elections to local, regional and national level take place the same day.
  • Education – about for instance new legislation, politcal procsesses etc
  • Information and open debate on TV, radio, newspapers and on Internet.

Several different structures play different roles in order to build a local publicity characterized by diversity in perspectives and starting points. The overall picture of the local government can be likened to a triangle where the base consists of local media, primarily the local press and local broadcasting. They form a basic local publicity with a relatively large municipality coverage, which reaches a mass audience. In a second level above the base, then follow the digital public domain related to the municipality. Here are the local media sites, and the municipality own site. Municipalities also have a long way to offer sites that are democratic ideal . Yet there is a potential in these sites when it comes to widen the local publicity, and in essence, there are more opportunities there than anywhere else. If some more ambitious efforts are made by both the municipality and local media to the digital public sphere developed significantly in the future. At a third level, there are traditional municipal information and physical meeting places. They play an important role with a high democratic value. It is difficult to see a vigorous publicity where local newspapers have been replaced by a municipal information, but it is easy to see how diversity increases if the municipality population reads in its local daily newspaper commented on by the municipality or discussed at a public meeting.
Trends / arguments we can use to mobilize and increase the visibility of women in politics

  • Increased gender equality (even if it slow its progressing)
  • The possibility to influence the everyday issues

Trends / arguments we can use to engage citizens in political processes and elections

  • Influence and involvement in decision-making
  • Democracy in practice, empowerment
  • Information and education campaigns



Challenges and obstacles we face when it comes to mobilizing women and making tthem visible in politics

  • Current standards and structures of political life (the image of a woman as a politician)
  • Womens double workload, politics is something that is done in ones spare time
  • Backlash – anti-feminist tendencies
  • Gender aspects are often lacking in public debate
  • Family formation of many single parents
  • The strong political blocs counteract cross-political non partisan networks of female politicians

Challenges and obstacles we face in the involvement of citizens in political dialogue and elections

  • People are busy, and values not democracy, but takes it for granted
  • People feel that they lack knowledge about politics, especially evident in the European elections.



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