The difference grows between city and countryside!


(From left to right) the three report authors at a seminar organized by SNS: Eva Mörk, Uppsala University, Lovisa Persson, IFN, and Gissur Ó Erlingsson, Linköping University.

“Many small and shrinking municipalities are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with their welfare assignment”, says Eva Mörk, Uppsala University, Gissur Ó Erlingsson, Linköping University, and Lovisa Persson, IFN, in the SNS Konjunkturrådsrapport 2019. They advocate, among other things, that asymmetric division of responsibility is studied, i.e., that certain areas of responsibility are lifted away from smaller municipalities. The reason is that the researchers have found that the difference is growing between cities and rural areas. "The students in big cities generally perform better than those in a remote rural area," Lovisa Persson explained. As for elderly care, however, the researchers do not see any systematic difference.

2019-01-16 Lovisa Persson SNS1.jpg
Lovisa Persson, IFN, is one of the three researchers who has written the SNS Konjunkturrådsrapport 2019 about the future of municipalities.


The municipalities' ability to cope with the welfare assignment will deteriorate significantly in the near future, the researchers explain. It is about an aging population, a large population moving into the cities and a high refugee reception.

More than half of Sweden's 290 municipalities are expected to lose population over the next 20 years. The shrinking municipalities in rural areas are facing particularly serious problems. In particular, the proportion of residents in working-age decreases and the proportion over 80 years is increasing. This means that fewer people have to support more people with their work. Twenty-five percent of the very remote rural municipalities' income consists of the general government grant and the municipal equalization. The corresponding proportion is 7 percent for metropolitan municipalities, although the proportion differs greatly between different metropolitan municipalities.

The researchers propose, among other things, that one should consider moving the responsibility for delimited areas, such as schools, from small municipalities with a lack of capacity either to the region, a larger neighbor municipality or, ultimately, the state. Then one can take advantage of economies of scale in management and administration in the activities that are being moved. They also suggest that targeted government grants should be greatly reduced and that the municipalities are encouraged to increase collaboration across municipal boundaries also in welfare areas, as well as to streamline the operations by using digital aids to a greater extent.

Read the opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter about the report

Read the report

See the seminar

                                                                                                                                                                       Text from Swedish to English by Victoria Svensson

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