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Income and tax statistics: Income report 2017

At-risk-of-poverty rate increasing

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2019-06-27 9.30

Income growth among groups with low incomes has been relatively weak. This has led to a gradual increase in the at-risk-of-poverty rate since the early 1990s, from 7.3 percent in 1991 to 14.9 percent in 2017. These are the findings presented in Statistics Sweden’s annual income report.

This report presents statistics on Swedish income distribution and its development in recent decades.

Incomes increased more for women than for men, but large gaps remain

The median total earned income has increased in all years in the 2000s in the age group 20–64 years. Women saw the largest increase, 39 percent, inflation-adjusted, while for men the increase was 29 percent. In 2017, women’s median income was 83 percent of men’s median income.

In 2017, 38 percent of men in the age group 20–64 years had a total earned income of at least SEK 400 000. The corresponding share among women was 22 percent. Incomes above one million Swedish kronor are relatively uncommon among both women and men; around 59 000 men and 18 000 women attained these levels in 2017.

As a group, persons aged 65 years and older have a lower total earned income than 20–64 year-olds. As in the younger population, incomes among women in the older group are lower than among men. In 2017, women’s median income amounted to 73 percent of men’s median income in the 65 years or older group. However, incomes in this group have increased at a faster rate for women than for men. This development was most beneficial for the group of persons aged 65–69 years, where women’s real income rose by 37 percent, compared with 31 percent among men.

More people work for longer

Since the early 2000s, when the age for those eligible to work was raised from 65 years to 67 years, the share of gainfully employed persons among older persons has increased sharply. In 2000, 18 percent of 67 year-olds had some income from salary. This share have increased to 38 percent in 2017. More than one out of four 69 year-olds also had some form of income from salary, which is almost a doubling compared with 2000. It is more common among men than among women to have an income from salary after the age of 65 years.

Income gaps continue to widen

The economic standard of households continues to increase, although at a slower rate than in recent years. In 2017, the median income for the economic standard was SEK 248 400. This is an increase of 0.7 percent from 2016, taking inflation into account. In the 2000s, the economic standard has increased by 61 percent.

The development of the economic standard has not been as prominent among all groups, which has meant that income gaps have widened. In 1991, the Gini coefficient was 0.226; in 2000 it had increased to 0.294, and in 2017 it was 0.322, which is the highest rate since measurements began. The widening income gaps are in part driven by increased capital incomes, which are unevenly distributed and mainly credited to the top of the income distribution. In 2017, the 10 percent of households with the highest levels of disposable income accounted for 87 percent of total capital income. However, capital income in this group are also unevenly distributed. More than half, 54 percent, of total capital income fell to the one percent of households with the highest levels of disposable income.

On the whole, younger and older persons have a lower economic standard than working-age persons, single persons have a lower standard than cohabiting persons, and families with children have a lower standard than households without children.

Single older persons and single women with children had the lowest economic standard in 2017. Cohabiting persons with young adults still living at home, followed by cohabiting persons without children had the highest level of economic standard. Foreign born persons have a lower economic standard than Swedish born persons. In 2017, foreign born persons had an economic standard that corresponded to 77 percent of the economic standard of Swedish born persons. However, this share has remained unchanged since 2010. In 1991, the corresponding share was 90 percent, that is, the gap between foreign born persons and Swedish born persons has widened.

At-risk-of-poverty rate increasing

Groups with low incomes have had a relatively weak income development. This means that the at-risk-of-poverty rate, where incomes are related to the national median income, has increased gradually since the early 1990s, from 7.3 percent in 1991 to 14.9 percent in 2017.

In the same period, the share of persons with a low income standard has decreased from 9 percent in 1991 to just under 6 percent in 2017. This measurement is used to classify households with low incomes and describes how household incomes cover necessary living costs. The highest level during the period was in 1996, when 18 percent of the population had a low income standard. The sharp increase in the first half of the 1990 is linked to dropping real incomes in connection with the economic crisis that affected Sweden in this period. The share of persons with a low income standard has subsequently declined in step with rising real incomes.

Relatively large increase in income inequality in Sweden

There are large variations in economic standard between countries in Europe. Among EU countries, Luxembourg had the highest median income (EUR 29 300), and Romania had the lowest median income (EUR 5 300) in income year 2016. In Sweden, the purchasing power adjusted median income was EU 20 200, while the EU average was EUR 16 900.

Sweden is among the EU countries in which income inequality has widened the most since income year 2007. This increase is larger in Sweden than the average change in the EU with regard to all three indicators of income inequality included in the analysis: the Gini coefficient, the S80/S20 ratio and the at-risk-of-poverty rate. However, income distribution remains relatively even in Sweden compared with other EU countries. In income year 2016, Sweden placed below the EU average for all three indicators.

Tenants in rented dwellings spend larger share of income on housing

Households in owner-occupied one- or two-dwelling houses have, on average, higher housing costs than households in tenant-owned or rented dwellings. However, this is because owner-occupied one- or two-dwelling houses are, on the whole, larger than tenant-owned or rental dwellings. In a comparison between dwellings with the same number of rooms, households living in rented dwellings have higher housing costs than the other two categories.

At the same time, households living in rented dwellings have a lower disposable income than households living in one- or two-dwelling buildings and tenant-owned dwellings, which means that these households spend a larger share of their income on housing. Housing expenditures as a percentage of disposable income, that is, the share of the household’s disposable income spent on housing, was 21 percent in 2017. For households living in rented dwellings, the percentage of housing costs was 28 percent, for households living in tenant-owned dwellings, it was 20 percent, and for those who owned their dwellings, this percentage was 16 percent. The fact that housing expenditures as a percentage of disposable income are larger for households in rented dwellings is mainly because these households have a lower disposable income on average.

For those living in rented dwellings, housing expenditures as a percentage of disposable have increased by just under one percentage point since 2007, for households living in tenant-owned dwellings, this percentage decreased by one percentage point, while for those who owned their dwellings, it decreased by two percentage points.

Definitions and explanations

Total earned income (gross): Consists of total income from employment and business, that is, all taxable incomes, excluding capital income. Income from employment refers to primarily the sum of salary, pension, sickness benefit, parental allowance, sickness and activity compensation and unemployment benefits.

Disposable income: The sum of all taxable and non-taxable income less taxes and other negative transfers (such as repaid study loans) of all household members.

Economic standard (equivalised disposable income): A system that takes into account different types of households is applied to make comparisons of disposable income among different types of households. The disposable income is divided by the number of consumption units in the household.

At-risk-of-poverty rate: The at-risk-of-poverty rate is the share of people with an equivalised disposable income below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income.

Low income standard: Low income standard is an absolute measure of poverty. The indicator classifies households with low income and measures the share of people living in households not able to meet basic needs, such as housing costs, costs of child care, local transportations etc.

Gini coefficient: The Gini coefficient is used to show inequality in the income distribution. Inequality in distribution can be described with a Lorenz curve, which is used to calculate the Gini coefficient. The coefficient assumes a value between 0 and 1. A high coefficient value implies greater inequality than a low value.

Housing expenditures as a percentage of disposable income: The share of the disposable income used to housing costs.


A more detailed presentation of the results is published in the report Income report 2017 – individuals and households (pdf)

Statistical Database

More information is available in the Statistical Database

Feel free to use the facts from this statistical news but remember to state Source: Statistics Sweden.

Statistical agency and producer

Statistics Sweden, Population and Economic Welfare Statistics Unit

701 89 Örebro


Hans Heggemann

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Peter Gärdqvist

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