The American and Swedish Policies Comparison

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Analysis of a country’s policies on various social and economic issues can give insights into the quality of life experienced by the citizens of that country. Quality of life is largely dependent on the policies and laws instituted in areas such as education, healthcare, employment, and housing. The United States and Sweden have major differences in policies. Despite the fact that both of these nations are developed countries, Sweden has made larger strides in improving the lives of its citizens. This country’s policies are more citizen-centric than those of the US, which means that its policies are enacted in consideration of citizens’ needs. On the hand, the US has many policies that negatively impact citizens and reduce social welfare. Based on its education, healthcare, employment, and housing policies, Sweden provides a better quality of life to citizens than the US.

Education Policies

The first point of comparison between US and Sweden policies is educational policies. In both the US and Canada, education is compulsory for children. The US federal government dictates that children have the right to education, and parents or guardians have the responsibility of ensuring their children obtain it. The law can hold both a child and their parents accountable if the child fails to consistently attend school; truancy is considered a juvenile crime. In some states, education is compulsory up to the age of sixteen years, while others require students to attend school until they are eighteen (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). Similarly, Sweden requires children over the age of six to attend school for at least ten years. Compulsory education is a policy meant to increase participation in education. The two countries have similar policies with regard to children attending school.

Next, it is possible to compare the cost of education in the US and Canada. In the US, K-12 education is free to encourage attendance. Funding for elementary and junior high school education mostly comes from taxes collected by the national government (OECD). Education is also funded by local taxes collected by states, which means that schools located in wealthy neighborhoods receive more funding than those in impoverished places. In addition to the inequity created by funding, it is essential to note that compulsory education is not completely free. While the federal and state governments pay for tuition, parents are expected to pay for other costs, such as lunch, school trips, and stationery. Consequently, some students accumulate debt even before the age of eighteen. It is estimated that the public school meal debt averages $262 million a year (Forde). Some children drop out of school when their parents are unable to meet the non-fee costs associated with attending school.

A college education is not free in the US, and students incur massive debts to attend university. The average student owes about $30,000 in loans used to pay for their studies (Hanson). Student debt has become a national crisis in the US. For instance, the national student debt increased by 100% from $800 billion in 2011 to $1.6 trillion in 2021 (Hanson). The US spends less money on education than other developed countries. The nation spends approximately 4.96% of its GDP on education (Velez et al. 187). On average, countries in the OECD spend 5.6% of their GDP on public education (OECD). The US government’s policies on spending make it difficult to achieve education equity.

In contrast, education from elementary to college is completely free in Sweden. Sweden devotes approximately 7.6% of its GDP to education, which is higher than the average spent by other OECD countries, including the US (OECD). Education is fully-funded, which means that private expenditure is not used to fund education. Students and their parents do not have to worry about school costs. For example, the government gives a stipend or grant to parents to cater for costs associated with sending children to school. As a result of these policies, Sweden has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Sweden’s adult literacy rate is 99%, while the US has a literacy level of 86% (World Atlas). Using the accessibility to education and literacy rates as metrics, it is evident that Sweden outperforms the US. In terms of education, Sweden’s policies provide its citizens with a better quality of life than those of the US.

Healthcare Policies

The government’s healthcare policies can be used to assess citizens’ quality of life. There is a large disparity between the US and Sweden’s healthcare policies in terms of coverage, funding, and provision. In the US, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the main law that outlines healthcare policies. The ACA does not provide universal health insurance coverage, which means that citizens are not assured of access to healthcare. Since the country does not have universal healthcare, approximately 8% of the population, or 31 million people, are uninsured (Maddox et al. 171). Insurance is provided by a mix of public and private providers, with the latter being the dominant type of coverage. The two main government healthcare programs are Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare primarily covers senior citizens above the age of sixty-five, while Medicaid covers low-income individuals. Public healthcare spending accounts for approximately 8% of GDP but this figure increases to 18% when private healthcare expenditure is included (Tikkanen et al. 213). Effectively, this means that the US is the country that spends the highest amount on healthcare provision.

In contrast to the US, Sweden has universal and automatic healthcare coverage which is regulated by the Health and Medical Service Act. This means that all residents are automatically entitled to healthcare services; 100% of the population is insured (Tikkanen et al. 183). Although the government provides coverage to all residents, individuals can supplement coverage with private insurance. Public health insurance is the dominant form of coverage, with private insurance accounting for less than 1% of coverage (Broussard). The Swedish system is regulated nationally but administered locally. For example, financing and delivery of health services fall under the jurisdiction of regional councils, while municipal governments are responsible for the care of the disabled and the elderly. In Sweden, healthcare expenditure accounts for approximately 11% of the GDP (Tikkanen et al. 186). Healthcare is publicly financed through personal and national income tax, national government grants, and subsidies. The national government redistributes resources among the regions and municipalities according to need, meaning no region is underfunded relative to others.

In general, citizens of Sweden enjoy better healthcare as compared to those of the US. In contrast to Americans, Swedish residents are assured of access to care because of the universal coverage policy. While millions of Americans remain uninsured, all Sweden citizens have access to healthcare services. The US spends more money on healthcare provision, yet the entire population is not covered. This is because healthcare costs in the US are largely unregulated. Most of this expenditure is shouldered by private insurers who resort to cost-sharing mechanisms such as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments to reduce the burden. This means that despite paying for insurance, American citizens also incur high out-of-pocket costs. From the foregoing, Sweden provides a better quality of life to its citizens in terms of healthcare policies.

Employment Policies

In addition to education and healthcare policies, employment policies and practices determine citizens’ quality of life. There are numerous labor laws in both the US and Sweden, and it is impossible to cover them exhaustively. Nonetheless, one important area of employment policy is termination. Termination policy refers to whether or not employers are required to give notice to their employees before termination. Policies also stipulate the minimum length of termination notice required. Such rules allow employees to have a relative sense of stability. They are guaranteed that they will have some time to search for employment if they lose their current job. Termination policy is an important indicator of how employment policies affect employees and citizens as a whole.

The US and Sweden have differing policies on employment termination. The US government does not require companies to give notice to an employee before termination or even layoff. The Fair Labor Standards Act does not have a provision for compulsory termination notice (Lewis 1). Employees are only required to be given notice if they are under contract, covered by a collective bargaining agreement under a union, or part of a mass layoff (Lewis 1). Most employers give notice to employees but only out of courtesy than a legal requirement. In contrast, Sweden has rigid laws governing the termination process prescribed by the Swedish Employment Protection Act. Employers are required to give a minimum termination notice of between one and six months, depending on how long an employee has worked for them. For instance, for a person who has worked for less than two years at their current place of employment, a one-month notice is required, while for one who has been employed for ten years or more necessitates a six-month termination policy (Campbell 120). Sweden has stricter labor termination laws than the US.

Another area of concern is policies governing leave in terms of duration and payment. The first type of leave is paid leave or vacation, which refers to legally-protected time off work. In the US, leave days range between eleven and twenty days, depending on the length of employment status. An employee is entitled to eleven and twenty vacation days after working for at least a year and twenty years, respectively (Lewis 22). On the other hand, all employees in Sweden receive twenty-five vacation days per year, provided they have worked for their employer for a year.

Another type of leave is parental leave, which refers to the time an employee can take off work to care for their child after birth or adoption. In the US, the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles employees to a parental leave of a maximum of twelve weeks in a twelve-month work period (Campbell 125). While the Act protects an employee’s job during parental leave, it does not require their employer to pay them (Kaufman e2). Consequently, many parents tend to take few parental leave days. In Sweden, employers must grant their employees up to a maximum of 420 days, of which employees are entitled to 80% of their normal pay for the first 390 days (Campbell 136). Sweden’s parental leave regulations protect both an employee’s job as well as their income.

In comparison to the US, Sweden has more employee-friendly labor policies. Sweden’s policies on termination and leave favor employees over employers. For instance, the termination notice policy ensures that employees cannot suddenly lose their jobs. Additionally, the country offers longer periods of both paid and parental leave, which improves the quality of life. Sweden’s employment policies emphasize work-life balance, while those of the US discourage it. Work-life balance is an integral part of the quality of life, and as such, Sweden’s policies are more favorable for citizens.

Housing Policies

Lastly, the housing policies of the US and Sweden can be compared to understand how the homeless are viewed and treated. In particular, public housing policies give an insight into a country’s housing priorities. The US federal government established the Public Housing Authority to provide rental housing for low-income populations (Chattopadhyay). The government also provides subsidies to the private sector to build houses for low-income populations. The Department of Housing and Urban Development requires a household to have a maximum of 80% of the median area median income (Hananel 467). Despite this provision, only about a quarter of those who qualify for housing assistance actually receive it. In contrast, Sweden provides subsidies to municipal housing corporations to build affordable public housing. These corporations construct high-quality housing units that currently comprise 50% of all rentals in the country (Hananel465). There are no eligibility criteria for municipal housing because housing is considered a public utility to which everyone is entitled. However, this has led to the rich being in control of most of the units inaccessible, urban regions.

Both the US and Sweden have housing problems due to their policies. Neither of these countries has implemented policies strong enough to mitigate homelessness. In both countries, federal spending on public housing has been reduced over the years. For instance, the US has cut funding to the Public Housing Authority, while Sweden has increased the tax rate of loans given to municipal housing corporations, resulting in more expensive public housing. While both countries have poor housing policies, the US has a marginally lower rate of homelessness than Sweden. The US has a homeless rate of 0.17%, while Sweden’s is 0.33% (Gagnon). There is a need for both countries to improve their housing policies since neither of them has effective programs that give citizens a good quality of life. Nevertheless, America’s housing policies, while poor, are slightly better than those of Sweden.


In conclusion, it is evident that compared to the US, Sweden is a better country to reside in with regard to the quality of life. The Swedish government has policies that ensure a high quality of life for residents. Education is free, while healthcare is universal and automatic. In the US, elementary and junior high school education is free with the exception of costs such as lunch. Higher education is costly to the point of causing a national crisis. The US healthcare system is burdensome to many citizens and unaffordable to others. With respect to employment, Sweden’s policies provide for a greater work-life balance than those of America. From the analysis provided, Sweden’s policies in various areas are superior to those of the US.

Works Cited

Broussard, Bruce. “What Can America Learn From Sweden About Healthcare?” World Economic Forum, Web.

Campbell, Mallory. “Family Leave: Comparing the United States’ Family and Medical Leave Act with Sweden’s Parental Leave Policy.” Notre Dame Journal of International & Comparative Law, 2019, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 117-140, Web.

Chattopadhyay, Subrata, et al. “An Overview of Housing Policy in Sweden, USA, China and Germany: Lessons Learnt.” 2018.

Forde, Kaelyn. “The Other Student Debt: US Kids Struggle to Pay for School Meals.” Aljazeera, Web.

Gagnon, Katie. “Homelessness In Sweden: A Country in a Housing Crisis.” Borgen Project, Web.

Hananel, Ravit, et al. “Public Housing Matters: Public Housing Policy in Sweden, the United States, and Israel.” Journal of Planning Education and Research, vol. 41, no. 4, 2021, pp. 461-476, Web.

Hanson, Melanie, “Student Loan Statistics.” Education Data Initiative, 2022, Web.

Kaufman, Gayle. “Fixing Parental Leave: The Six-Month Solution.” Social Forces, vol. 99, no. 2, 2020, pp. e1-e3, Web.

Lewis, Jackson. “Employment Law Overview USA 2019-2020.” L&E Global, 2021, Web.

Maddox, Karen E. et al. “US Health Policy—2020 and Beyond: Introducing a New JAMA Series.” JAMA, vol. 321, no. 17, 2019, pp. 1670-1672, Web.

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. “Education At a Glance 2019: OECD Indicators.” OECD, 2019, Web.

Tikkanen, Roosa, et al. “International Profiles of Health Care Systems.” The Commonwealth Fund, 2020, Web.

Velez, Erin, et al. “Debt Burden After College: The Effect of Student Loan Debt on Graduates’ Employment, Additional Schooling, Family Formation, And Home Ownership.” Education Economics, vol. 27, no.2, 2019, pp. 186-206, Web.

World Atlas. “List Of Countries by Literacy Rate.” Web.

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DemoEssays. "The American and Swedish Policies Comparison." March 19, 2023.