Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Living in Sweden


Accommodation

There are three main types of residential accommodation in Sweden: own homes, co-operative housing and tenant-owner housing. Co-operative and tenant-owner housing are usually in the form of apartments, but occasionally also detached or semi-detached homes. Most tenant-owner housing is owned by public housing companies. Acquiring co-operative housing entails membership in an economic association which requires a financial investment. Prices for co-operative housing and own homes vary a great deal from region to region. Prices and rents also differ according to location, size and standard. Local and national newspapers often contain adverts about houses and apartments for sale and rent (check out the Swedish-language site www.onlinenewspapers.com/sweden.htm ). Municipalities have information about local flats for rent on their websites often in English. Search for rental properties at http://www.bostaddirekt.com/ . See also http://www.bovision.se/ (in German and English) and http://www.hemnet.se/ (in several languages).

Childcare and school

Childcare in Sweden is an important issue since most parents work. The various forms of public childcare in Sweden today are available to children aged 1–12. Municipalities are obliged by law either to provide this service themselves or to give grants to private care-providers.

The official age for starting school is 7 but almost all children attend pre-school from the age of 6. School is compulsory up to the age of 16. Almost all pupils go on to the Upper Secondary school level (gymnasium), which offers a variety of three year programmes. For information about the school system in Sweden, from pre-school to adult education and Swedish for immigrants, see http://www.skolverket.se/ . General information about higher education studies is provided by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education at http://www.hsv.se/ . For information about courses and applications see http://www.studera.nu/ . Information for foreign students is provided by the Swedish Institute and is available at http://www.studyinsweden.se/ .

Social insurance

Swedish social insurance is financed mainly through employers’ contributions, with only a small proportion being covered by individual contributions. Contributions are included in the tax deductions from salaries. Social insurance is administered by the Swedish Social Insurance Office. (Försäkringskassan) See http://www.forsakringskassan.se/privatpers/

It is possible to take out extra insurance via insurance companies and trade unions. Some employers provide extra insurance coverage as a staff benefit. To be covered by or to be eligible for social benefits through the Social Insurance Office you must as a rule either be resident in Sweden or working here. Examples of residence-based benefits are child allowance, housing allowance and an allowance for medical expenses. If you work in Sweden you are insured for employment-based benefits which include sickness benefits and rehabilitation compensation.

Medical health care

Patient fees for consulting a physician working within the national health scheme usually vary from SEK 120 to SEK 300. In some counties medical health care for children is free. When you buy a prescribed medicine you are given a discount. Further discounts are given to those who exceed the yearly cost limit.

Sick leave

No wages or sickness benefits are paid for the first day you report sick. The employer pays for the first 2 weeks of sick leave. You may be eligible for sickness benefits if you have been sick for more than two weeks and no longer receive sick pay from your employer. As a rule, both sick pay and sickness benefits amount to 80% of salary (up to a certain limit), and are liable to income tax. In most cases a doctor’s certificate is required for more than 7 days of sick leave.

Dental care

Dental care is free up to and including 19 years of age. After this you have to pay part or the entire cost of dental care yourself. The regulations applying to Swedish dental care have been reformed as of July 1st 2008, and information about these changes is available at http://www.fk.se/ . People from other countries should make sure that they fully understand their situation regarding social insurance. Please note that unemployment benefits are not covered by the Swedish social insurance scheme. More information in other languages is available at www.fk.se/sprak .

Unemployment insurance

The Swedish system for unemployment insurance differs from most other countries. There is a universal basic unemployment insurance providing benefits to those over the age of 20 after a qualifying period. Most workers in Sweden apply to belong to a voluntary Unemployment Insurance Fund, which provides income-related insurance up to a certain limit. Information about the system is provided in several languages at http://www.iaf.se/ and in English at http://www.samorg.org/ . As more workers earn above the maximum amount for income-related unemployment insurance, more trade unions offer their members extra insurance coverage.

If you become unemployed after working in Sweden you should immediately register as a job seeker at the employment office. They will advise you on procedures. If you have not worked long enough to qualify for Swedish unemployment benefits, it is possible that work in another country can be taken into consideration. In such cases the E 301 form will be needed to verify periods of work. You will find more information about this at http://www.iaf.se/ .

Parental allowances and parental leave

A parental allowance can be paid out from 60 days prior to the birth of a child. A parent is entitled to be on full-time leave from work up to eighteen months after the birth of the child. Until the child’s eighth birthday, parents are entitled to reduce their working hours by 25 %. A new father is entitled to ten days leave plus compensation for lost income in conjunction with the child’s birth, without affecting payment of the mother’s parental allowance.

A parental allowance may be paid out over a maximum of 480 days. Parents are entitled to divide parental leave equally between them, although one parent can waive this right in favour of the other parent, apart from the 60-day period. A temporary parental allowance can be granted to parents who need to stay at home with a sick child (60 days), or when normal care is not available (60 days), until the child is 12 years old.

If you have a child who is under 16 years of age, you are entitled to a child allowance, if the child is resident in Sweden. This allowance is terminated when the child is 16 and replaced by an extended child allowance if the child continues in full-time secondary education. If you have three or more children, you are entitled to a supplementary child allowance.

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