major macro economic indicators
|2018||2019||2020 (e)||2021 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||2.1||1.3||-3.8||2.7|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||2.0||1.8||0.5||1.0|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||0.8||0.5||-3.6||-2.5|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||2.5||4.2||4.9||4.1|
|Public debt (% GDP)||38.9||35.1||39.9||40.8|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast
- Very favourable business environment
- Very diversified economy, specialized in high-tech products and the green economy
- Sound public finances
- Increasingly dynamic demographics
- Highly dependent on global demand
- Tensions on the real-estate market
- Substantial household debt (188% of personal disposable income, 2019)
- Highly concentrated banking sector
Nobody is on an island
In 2021, a slow economic recovery is expected, after the Swedish economy went into a recession in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. After the virus hit Sweden in spring 2020, the government reacted unconventionally with the softest restrictions in Europe, which were mainly based on voluntary social distancing. While the aim was to reach a herd-immunity fast and keep the economy alive, the result was the tenth highest COVID-19 death rate in the world. Furthermore, the voluntary social distancing had negative economic results in Sweden in Q2 2020, like everywhere else in Europe, with a sharp decline in private consumption and investments. Moreover, as the main export partners - Germany, the U.S. or the UK - partly shut down their production, Swedish exports fell sharply too. In parallel to other European countries, the Swedish economy recovered fast in the third quarter of 2020, especially since private consumption and exports picked up again. A second wave of COVID-19 in mid-autumn turned out to be considerably stronger than the first wave. However, governmental restrictions only sharpened in single parts. Therefore, the economic growth dynamic should remain limited during the winter, but will then gain some momentum. Private consumption should pick up again, as the unemployment rate should slowly drop from its peak-level of above 9% in 2020 to a more sustainable level of around 8%, which will still be above the pre-crisis level. The financial situation of households will probably improve in 2021, with a stronger savings rate as a background and robust housing prices. The new collective wage deal, negotiated between unions and employers in the manufacturing industry in October 2020, resulted in a wage growth rate of 5.4% starting in October until March 2023. This result is less than the last 3-year deal that had a wage growth of 2.2% per year, but still builds a foundation for moderate consumption growth. Investment expenditures should remain limited in 2021 as long as the overall global economic uncertainty remains, while exports should pick up when demand from the Nordic neighbours, as well as Germany, the UK and the U.S., is revived.
Surprisingly, businesses did not deplete the government’s stimulus package in 2020, as only 3/4th of the financial support was used, e.g. the furlough scheme. The remaining amount of around SEK 105 billion (2.2% of GDP) is now planned in for 2021, including welfare measures, extended turnover support for businesses and income tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners. The Riksbank initiated a corporate loan programme in 2020 (SEK 500 billion, 10% of GDP) and the asset purchase programme was extended from SEK 130 billion to SEK 500 billion until mid-2021. An additional extension is possible in 2021, while the key interest rate is expected to remain at 0%. Thanks to the public support measures, the Swedish financial sector did relatively well in 2020 with stable lending to households and companies. Nevertheless, a rise in corporate debt and bankruptcies is one of the main risks for the banking sector, which will focus on rebuilding the bank’s capital buffer.
External accounts will remain positive
In 2021, the country’s external position will return to its 2019-level following the strong increase in 2020. Last year, disproportionally high returns on investments abroad led the current account balance to surge, alongside only a mild decrease in the goods-trade balance. The investment balance is likely to come back to more sustainable levels in 2021, while goods exports should increase again. Conversely, the general government budget balance will remain negative in 2021 and should not already return to its 2019-level. However, the budget deficit should remain limited, which will keep the public debt at a sustainable level.
Resilient coalition despite the pandemic
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven from the Social Democratic Party (100 seats out of 349 seats in the parliament) is leading a minority government with the Green party (16 seats), supported by the social-liberal Centre Party (31 seats), the Liberals (19 seats) and the Left Party (27 seats). At first, the unconventional strategy to fight COVID-19 increased the support share of the government in polls. However, with the advent of the economic recession, in combination with the disproportionally high death rate, public support dropped down to almost pre-crisis-levels. Nevertheless, the current coalition is expected to make it until the next general election in 2022, as the supporting parties, who would be needed for a vote of no confidence, lost support in the polls too and would not risk an election in the current difficult circumstances.
Last updated: February 2021
Bills of exchange and promissory notes are neither widely used nor recommended as they must meet a number of formal requirements in order to be considered as legally valid.
Just as the rules for issuing cheques have become more flexible, the sanctions for issuers of uncovered cheques have been relaxed over the years. The use of cheques has subsequently become almost non-existent.
Conversely, use of the SWIFT electronic network by Swedish banks provides a secure, efficient, and cost-effective domestic and international fund-transfer service. Payments are dependent on the buyer’s good faith. Sellers are advised to ensure that their bank account details are correct if they wish to receive timely payment.
Direct debits represent about 10% of non-cash payments in Sweden and are quickly growing in popularity. There are two types of direct debit in Sweden: Autogiro Foretag (AGF) for B2B transactions and Autogiro Privat (AGP) for B2C payments. They can both be used for single or recurring payments.
Amicable settlement aims to recover the debt without transferring the case into a trial procedure. The debtor is informed (either orally or via writing, with written correspondence being preferred) about the debt, the payment deadline, and the consequences of not paying the debt. If debtor agrees to pay the debt, both parties may settle on instalment payments through an official document that sets out the contractual terms of the agreement.
When there is no specific interest clause in the contract, the rate of interest applicable since 2002 is the six-monthly benchmark rate (referensräntan) of the Central Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank), plus eight percentage points.
Under the Swedish Interest Act (räntelag, 1975, last amended in 2013), interest on damages is awarded from the 30th day following the day on which the creditor addressed a written claim for damages to the defendant, if the plaintiff so requests. In any event, interest may be awarded from the date of service of the summons application.
Where claims meet some basic requirements (e.g. payment is overdue, mediation was attempted), creditors can obtain an injunction to pay (Betalningsföreläggande) via summary proceedings through the Enforcement Service. The application has to be made in writing and clearly express the grounds of the claim. No further proof needs to be submitted.
This Enforcement Authority (Kronofog–demyndigheten) orders the debtor to respond within a period of ten days to two weeks. If the debtor fails to reply in time or acknowledge the debt, a verdict will be rendered on the merits of the original application.
While formal, this system offers a relatively straightforward and quick remedy in respect of undisputed claims, which has greatly freed up the courts. Creditors are not required to hire a lawyer but, in some circumstances, would be well advised to do so. On average, the process takes two months from application to decision. The decision is immediately enforceable.
If the debtor contests the debt, the creditor has the decision of either turning to the District Court (the first instance, Tingsrätten) or to terminate the process.
Proceedings involve a preliminary hearing in which the judge attempts to help the parties reach a settlement after examining their case documents, evidence and arguments. It is up to the parties themselves to decide what evidence they wish to submit.
If the dispute remains unresolved, the proceedings continue with written submissions and oral arguments until the main hearing, where the emphasis is on counsels’ pleadings (defence and prosecution) and examination of witnesses’ testimonies.
In accordance with the principle of immediateness, the court bases its decision exclusively on the evidence presented at the trial. Barring exceptional circumstances, the judgement is customarily issued within two weeks thereafter.
As a general rule, the Code of Civil Procedure requires the losing party to bear all legal costs considered reasonable, as well as the attorney fees incurred by the winning party beyond a given threshold claim amount (about SEK 22,250, approximately €2,162).
It takes up to twelve months (in exceptional cases more) to obtain a writ of execution in first instance, bearing in mind that there is a widespread tendency in Sweden to appeal against judgements.
Enforcement of a Legal Decision
As soon as a domestic judgment becomes final, it is enforceable. If the debtor does not comply, the creditor can request the court’s enforcement authority to seize and sell the debtor’s assets.
For awards rendered in an EU member-state, special enforcement conditions are provided. When the claim is undisputed, the creditor may apply to the European Enforcement Order, or when the claim does not exceed €2,000, the creditor may start a European Small Claim Procedure. For awards issued in non-EU countries, the Svea Hovrät Court of Appeal must recognize an award in order to enforce it, provided that a recognition and enforcement agreement has been signed between the non-EU country and Sweden.
Out-of court proceedings
Swedish law does not formally regulate out-of court arrangements. Nevertheless, creditors and debtors can enter into voluntary negotiations in order to negotiate the debt and reach an agreement.
The aim of restructuring is to find a financial solution for an insolvent company that is deemed to have sustainable long-term business prospects. It can apply for a restructuring with the local court. If approved, the court will appoint a rekonstruktör to manage the restructuring. The latter will investigate the financial situation of the company, before establishing and implementing a restructuring plan under which up to 75% of the debt may be written off.
Bankruptcy proceedings are initiated as a consequence of a company becoming permanently insolvent. They aim to wind down an insolvent company by selling its assets and distributing any income to creditors. Either the debtor or the creditor can file a petition before the local court. After the court has declared a company bankrupt, it appoints an administrator that independently takes control over the company’s assets with the main task of realising such assets and repaying the debts of the bankruptcy estate in accordance with the creditors’ statutory ranking.