Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers: Sweden

Will the Recent Reforms Make It?

image of Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers: Sweden

Sickness and disability is a key economic policy concern for many OECD countries. Medical conditions, or problems labelled as such by societies and policy systems, are proving an increasing obstacle to raising labour force participation and keeping public expenditure under control. More and more people of working age rely on sickness and disability benefits as their main source of income, and the employment rates of those reporting disabling conditions are low. This report is an assessment of the Swedish reforms, which aim to lower inactivity and increase participation, against the background of recent trends and policy responses in other OECD countries. It looks at what Sweden is currently doing and what more it could do to transform its sickness and disability schemes from passive benefits to active support systems that promote work.    



Recent and Ongoing Reforms

The current Alliance for Sweden government was elected in 2006 with a mandate to restore the work-first principle and address labour market exclusion arising from long-term benefit receipt. This vision is at the heart of its proposed theme of Social Europe starts with a job for Sweden’s upcoming presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2009. When the government came into office in 2006, almost 30% of the working-age population was unemployed, underemployed or receiving other social benefits, and its initial reforms focused on unemployment. Some 200,000 people have joined the labour market since then. More recent changes have been concerned with advancing employment possibilities for those affected by sickness and disability.


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