Business / Economy

Sweden offers example of social welfare

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2012-04-26 11:08


China can look to Sweden as a model as it pushes forward with reforms and tries to set up a sound social welfare system, experts said during Premier Wen Jiabao's current tour of Europe.

Oliver Brauner, China expert with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said Wen's visit to Sweden should be about more than economics and trade deals.

The rich in China are becoming richer and the poor poorer and the country should improve its healthcare and pension systems, he said.

"Sweden is very developed in these issues," Brauner said. "I think that there should be something for China not to copy one by one, but to look at some aspects which are useful."

Sweden has also spent much on research and development and has become a center for advanced technology and innovation.

"And it is with a tiny population but skilled workforce," Brauner said. "Maybe it's also due to its sound social welfare system."

Anders Wijkman, a Swedish politician and current vice-chairman of the Club of Rome, an international political think tank, had similar thoughts.

"Sweden has implemented social initiatives and the country is famous for equality," he said. "But the story is two-sided for China."

As an example, he noted the country's "million program", in which the Swedish government built 1,006,000 apartments from 1965 to 1974 to ensure that every Swedish family could have an affordable dwelling. The project provided housing to nearly half of the country's population during that period.

"It was meaningful from the social perspective," Wijkman said. "But from the energy-saving perspective, it had problems which China should learn from. At that time, the design was at a low level from the energy and environmental perspectives."

The United Nations ranks Sweden as the country with the least inequality between rich and poor citizens and some of the greatest access to welfare benefits. The UN also places it very high on the human development index, which looks at the incomes, educations and health of the citizens of various countries.

Dennis Pamlin, CEO of 21st Century Frontier, a consultancy based in Stockholm, said urbanization in China is expected to bring about 300 million people into Chinese cities over the course of 20 years. He said so large a migration should not be managed using old methods.

China has also invested large amounts of money into building low-cost residences for medium and low-income families while taking steps to control housing prices.

"We need to set up a new platform to let China and Sweden learn from each other," Pamlin said.

He called on the Swedish government to enlist Chinese builders to help in renovating Sweden's welfare houses.

"We plan to renovate the houses in the million project into energy-saving apartments," Pamlin said. "If China gets involved, they can learn from both the social and environmental prospective. In this way, we can offer lessons for China's welfare house construction."

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