Academic Research Paper on Sweden
Geography and History of Sweden
Sweden is the fourth largest European country with a total area of 450,295 sq. kms. It is physically located to the east of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Sweden slopes to the east and South from Kjolen Mountains, bordering Norway with Kebnekaise as its highest point (about 2,123m). Mountains and lakes characterize Northern Sweden while southern and eastern regions have lowlands, with plains and fertile forestry valleys. The coastline has bays and inlets with several islands like Gotland and Oland, which are the largest.
Additionally, northern Sweden and mountainous regions have snow during most parts of the year, with only 8% left for farming. The country has a temperate climate in the south, with cold, cloudy winter and partly summer. Northern Sweden is found in the Arctic Circle. The maritime offers milder climatic conditions to the Southern region. Stockholm receives a mean annual rainfall of 22 mm, with July and September receiving the highest amounts.
Between 11th and 12th centuries, Sweden was an integrated Christian Empire that was later to include Finland. It was part of the Kalmar Union in 1937 before it collapsed because of endless conflicts between Danes and Swedes in the 15th century. This collapse put Norway and Denmark to one side with Finland and Sweden to the other. King Gustav Vasa was on the forefront fighting for the independence of the state of Sweden, which formed the foundation of the current Sweden. In 17th century, Sweden-Finland Union trounced Denmark, Poland and Russia, making it a greater power.
However, rival empires formed an alliance, which defeated the mighty Sweden-Finland Union. In 1905, Sweden and Norway formed a union. It was during the Agrarian Revolution that Sweden’s village farming changed to private based farming. Nonetheless, this did not influence socio-economic status of locals, leading to massive immigration to the US from 1860 to 1890. Sweden adopted major reforms in the 19th century, including voting procedures and introduction of national military service. These reforms led to the birth of three major political parties in the country. During the First and Second World Wars, Sweden would maintain a neutral position, benefitting from the high demand of steel, matches and ball bearings. In 1995, it joined the European Union (History 8).
Sweden follows a constitutional monarchy as a Kingdom and a democratic parliamentary system of governance. Swedish coalition parties form the government while the monarchy is a hereditary structure. The majority leader in parliament is the head of government and the Prime Minister, who appoints the cabinet. Parliament has the power to approve or reject a cabinet (Unicameral Riksdag). Swedish government can be kicked out of office through a parliamentary vote of no confidence. Her major political parties include Liberal People’s Party, Social Democrats, Moderates, Sweden Democrats, Greens, Center Party, Christian Democrats, and Left Party (Political Structure 21).
Sweden has an independent Justice system, which maintains the country’s law and order. According to the Legal Landscape, the constitution is the supreme law that defines the chain of command and gives direction in handling adjudicative matters. Sweden has specialized courts, which handle specific issues like property rights and labor issues. It also has customary laws. Businesses operating in Sweden adhere to the country’s enterprise laws and European Community regulations. The country also observes international laws and agreements, which apply in the business world. Sweden has a legal framework that allows local and international business to thrive. Foreign companies or individuals operating in Sweden operate through subsidiaries or branches. Except for banking and insurance, most Swedish sectors do not require an operating license for entrepreneurs. Forms of business ownership include Limited Liability Company, corporation, limited partnership, or general partnership.
Sweden adopted a new education curriculum in 2011 for SAMIs, special schools, and high Schools. The country offers free education except for nursery and higher education, where the government gives partial funding. The government requires schools to integrate technology in teaching, to enhance communication and make students to be innovative. This approach has had great significance to all sectors of the country’s economy. For instance, through technology, Sweden has clean environment, maintaining pace globally in environmental protection.
Sweden’s healthcare system is decentralized and the government funds the biggest percentage. Its organization and management falls under three sections, which are national level, regional level, and local level. Nationally, the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is the regulator, sets, and implements laws in the health sector. Regionally, county council offer financial and quality control role in the health sector. Lastly, municipalities are in charge of the social welfare services at the local level.
Sweden has a wide range of culinary options, like kebabs, Chinese cuisine, falfel, pizza and hamburgers. Husmanskost is the country’s main meal, comprising of potatoes, hearty sauce and meat. Sweden has freedom of religion, which is enshrined in the constitution. Thus, it encourages religious pluralism. The Church of Sweden has a following of 85% of the population. It came into being during Protestant Reforms. Roman Catholics and Muslims are also in Sweden.
By 2013, the population of Sweden was approximately 9.5 million people. The southern part of the country has a higher population than the north. In 2012, Sweden’s economic growth stood at 0.77%, with up to 85 % of the population inhabiting urban centers. In 2010, the life expectancy for men was 78.6 years and 83.3 for women. Sweden has a mortality rate of 2.75 per 1000. The country has an ageing population, where the elderly outnumber young people. This is a threat to the country’s economy, mainly with regard to sustainability of social welfare policies. In the next five years, about 36% of the working population is set to retire. The government of Sweden has a pension scheme for the aged and disabled persons, which threatens the economy with current demographic patterns. Main natives in Sweden are Swedes, ethnic Finns, and Sami. Finns, Danes, and Norwegians form majority immigrants.
Sweden has one of the best economies in Europe. Between 2000 and 2007, it registered a growth rate of 2.8%. It has an export-based economy, anchored on availability of iron ores, hydropower and timber. It has a stable manufacturing and service industry. However, the country’s economy was affected by the 2007 global financial crisis. Because of its effective fiscal and recovery strategies, Sweden experienced a growth rate of 3.4% between 2012 and 2014. Its leading industries are motor vehicle, pharmaceutical, iron and steel, home equipment and appliances, chemicals and telecommunication among others. It is a capitalist economy with a favorable environment for equality. The private sector owns the biggest share of recourses in the country, with a small percentage under state ownership. Exports account for approximately 50% of the country’s GDP. In 2012, Sweden had a GDP of approximately US $525.7 billion with a per capita income of US $44091.09.
Sweden’s main exports are vehicles, chemicals, machinery, iron, steel, paper products, pulp and wood logs among others. On the other hand, the country imports petroleum and its product, garments and foodstuffs. Members of the European Community are the leading trade partners with Sweden in promoting import and export business. Swedish economy further faces major challenges of unemployment, which stood at 8.4% in the year 2010. Another challenge is the restriction of foreign investments, which affect specific sectors like pharmaceuticals and alcoholics. Sweden also has high income tax of about 57%, which is among the highest all over the world. The country’s central bank maintains monetary policies to tame inflation, which is at 2%. In 2010, the inflation was 1.2% because of high food and oil prices.
Sweden has excellent infrastructure, outshining other European Union members. With huge investment with public funds, the country has ensured good road network, rails, harbors, water pays, and airports. Because of seasonal climatic conditions, Sweden has to maintain its roads, especially during winter. During this season, major highways are covered with ice and snow and require de-icing and snowplowing respectively to make them passable.
Additionally, vehicles must have winter tires between March and December annually. For Sweden, railway transport is pleasant and environmentally friendly. This is because its trains use hydro-generated power and other clean energies. With this rail network, commuting in Sweden is simplified. Sweden’s national carrier is SAS Scandinavian, which offers reliable access and link to the rest of the world. It is easier to fly in Sweden because of the high competition in the Airline industry. Sweden enjoys a large coastline with up to 50 public ports. Thus, approximately 95% of trade transport depends on vessels.
Sweden also has an advanced and developed technology system in terms of mobile phones, internet, lines and broadband connectivity. The country has made milestones in wireless communication and microelectronics. Moreover, Ericson is the dominating player in the telecommunication industry. Sweden has five leading TV channels, which are SVT1 and SVT2, TV3, TV4, and Kanal 5. Because of Swedish digital broadcasting, there is stiff competition towards satellite and terrestrial broadcasting. Due to hot summers and winters, Sweden has quality and reliable building and construction practices, in the communication and transport sectors. This has made Swedish construction companies to exert competition all over the world (Transport, Communication, and the Internet 24).
State-owned Swedish Radio Company is the leading radio broadcaster, which owns P1, P2, P3, and P4 and several local stations. Aftonbladetis is the country’s popular newspaper. It is owned by Schibsted and the trade Union Confederation, Norwegian media conglomerate. Stiff competition is from expressen, under Bonnier’s control. Other print media players include Sydsvenska Dagblade, .Dagens Nyheter, and Svenska Dagbladet.
According to the Food, retail Industry profile, the country retail market has grown over the years. Large-scale chains dominate the market and control about 50% of the industry. Because of strong competition from large stores, the number of retailer outlets in Sweden has been on the decline. To enhance efficiency, most retail chains in Sweden are centralizing purchases and creating international alliance and expanding operations. The main retailers in the market are Ahold, KF, and Axel Johnson.
The emergence of discount stores has also transformed the retail sector in Sweden, accounting for about 13.5% market share. Previously, it was hard for foreign players to get into the market because of its small size and complexity. With the emergence of discount stores, foreign players are finding the market favorable. These include Dansk Supermarket and Lidl. The main target markets in the capital city, southwestern and Stockholm. The ICA group is a major player in the market venturing in food retailing wholesaling. It owns a chain of discount stores, superstores, supermarkets and hypermarkets.
The second largest player is KF Group, a cooperative chain, owned by consumers with 500 retail stores countrywide. Axfood is also a discount store, which thrives on its Willy’s brand, which brings together a series of chain stores. It further controls Hemkop chain of supermarkets. The German Lidl is also a significant player in the market. While discount stores have had negative effects on mid-retailers, it offers affordable brands to consumers.
To import iron and steel from non-EU countries, one requires a license from Swedish government, which is managed by the National Board of Trade. The Swedish Board of Agriculture plays a major role in controlling production and selling animal products. The National Food Administration clears companies or individuals wishing to venture in distribution of foodstuffs. Importantly, companies must label all products in a language understandable by the people of Sweden. They should also give specific details about the product, including the ingredients and weight.
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