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Social security in Sweden 1993–2019

Expenditure on social protection decreased in relation to GDP

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2021-03-26 9.30

Social protection expenditures as a share of GDP decreased from 28.2 percent in 2018 to 27.7 percent in 2019. Social protection expenditures in current prices increased, but less compared to the increase of GDP.

In 2019, total expenditures on social protection increased by SEK 29.8 billion, which corresponds to roughly 2.2 percent. The corresponding increase in 2017 and 2018 was about 2 percent and about 3 percent respectively. Total expenditures for social protection amounted to SEK 1 394 billion in 2019.

Expenditures on social protection as a share of GDP has varied from year to year. The share fell from 35.6 percent in 1993 to 27.7 percent in 2019. Between 1993 and 2000, the share decreased steadily, and amounted to 28.0 percent in 2000. In the 2000s, the share varied between 27.2 percent (in 2007) and 30.1 percent (in 2003).

Expenditure on the elderly was the largest expenditure item

The largest expenditure item was the elderly, which amounted to 44 percent of social benefits in 2019. The second largest expenditure item was health and medical care, which accounted for 27 percent of total social benefits. This was followed by expenditure on family/children and disability, which accounted for 11 percent and 10 percent of total social benefits respectively.

Percentage distribution of expenditure on social protection by function, 2019

Chart: Percentage distribution of expenditure on social protection by function, 2019

Expenditures on the elderly increased by SEK 19.4 billion, an increase of 3.3 percent between 2018 and 2019. Old age pension, which is the largest item of expenditure on old age, increased by SEK 14.5 billion, which corresponds to 3.3 percent.

Health care

Expenditures on health and medical care increased by SEK 14.3 billion, which corresponds to roughly 4.0 percent. Expenditures on both inpatient and outpatient care increased. Inpatient care increased by SEK 4.1 billion, which corresponds to 3.5 percent more than last year. Outpatient care increased by SEK 8.7 billion, which corresponds to 5.0 percent. Expenditures on paid sick leave increased by SEK 1.2 billion in the same period.


In 2019, expenditures on disability decreased by SEK 0.2 billion, which corresponds to 0.2 percent. The item comprising assistance in carrying out daily tasks decreased by SEK 0.7 billion, which corresponds to 1.9 percent, in 2019, while accommodation increased by SEK 1.4 billion, which corresponds to 5.0 percent. Cash benefits in the form of disability pension continued to decrease; in 2019 this decrease amounted to SEK 1.3 billion.


Expenditures on family and children increased by SEK 4.2 billion, corresponding to an increase of 3.0 percent between 2018 and 2019. Family or child allowance accounted for the largest increase, SEK 1.2 billion, which corresponded to an increase of 4.3 percent. Child care for preschool children also increased, by SEK 1.1 billion, which corresponds to 2.2 percent.

Social exclusion

Expenditures on other social exclusion continued to decrease in 2019. Expenditures also decreased in 2017 and 2018, following two years of relatively large increases due to a high level of immigration. The decrease in 2019 was mainly related to decreased expenditures on accommodation and other social services as a result of fewer asylum seekers. Between 2018 and 2019, expenditures on accommodation decreased by SEK 2.4 billion, which corresponds to roughly 33 percent, and other social services decreased by 3.0 billion, which corresponds to 24.5 percent. Total expenditures on social exclusion decreased by SEK 4.9 billion, which corresponds to approximately 12 percent.

Social protection expenditure by function in relation to (%) GDP. Million SEK - current prices


2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
1. Sickness/Health care
297,253 315,392 330,674 341,184 360,613 374,889
2. Disability
125,640 128,813 127,193 129,644 133,179 132,935
3. Old Age
499,028 522,682 546,730 573,276 588,212 607,567
4. Survivors
14,681 14,081 13,685 13,375 12,767 12,412
5. Family/Children
120,357 125,133 130,987 131,962 141,564 145,791
6. Unemployment
43,765 44,106 45,152 45,402 42,272 39,441
7. Housing
18,291 18,614 18,307 18,269 19,168 19,043
8. Social exclusion nec.
29,829 39,713 59,937 48,884 39,450 34,568
Expenditures for social protection benefits
1,148,844 1,208,534 1,272,665 1,301,996 1,337,225 1,366,464
As a % of GDP
28.9 28.4 28.8 28.2 27.7 27.2
Administration costs/Other expenditures
22,503 24,536 25,218 26,577 26,715 27,121
Social protection expenditure
1,171,347 1,233,070 1,297,883 1,328,573 1,363,940 1,393,767
As a % of GDP
29.4 28.9 29.4 28.7 28.2 27.7

International comparisons

In the early 1990s, Sweden had the highest level of social protection expenditure in relation to GDP compared with other countries in the EU. In recent years, Sweden’s expenditures have been just below the EU average. In 2018, France had the highest level of expenditure on social protection as a share of GDP, at 33.7 percent. Denmark and Finland had the second and third highest levels of expenditure on social protection, at 31.4 percent and 30.1 percent of GDP respectively. Ireland was the EU country with the smallest share, 14.2 percent. Romania had the second lowest share, at 15.0 percent. 

The different taxation regulations pose a major problem for international comparisons. Some countries regulate taxes on certain benefits, while others do not. In addition, some benefits in certain countries consist of tax deductions, while other countries pay the benefit directly. Slightly more than half of the social protection benefits in Sweden are cash benefits. Most of these cash benefits are taxable. If taxation is taken into account, the percentage of GDP from benefits in 2019, excluding administration costs, fell from 27.2 percent including tax to 24.1 percent excluding tax.

Revisions to previously published data

In May 2020, the National Accounts updated figures for GDP and the entire GDP series was revised for the years 1993-2019. This revision affected social protection expenditure in relation to GDP for the entire series.

Definitions and explanations

Social protection is defined here as all services from public or private organisations with the purpose of reducing the burden on households and individuals from specially defined risks or meeting specially defined needs. A prerequisite is that these services do not require a return of services and that they are not based on individual arrangements. The benefits may be either in cash or in kind.

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

Statistical agency and producer

Statistics Sweden, National Accounts



Maria Pettersson

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Tove Lundén

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