Another reason to love Sweden

Hotel staff are likely to look bewildered if you offer them a tip for carrying your bags. They do not expect to have to tug their forelocks to earn their crust, and there is usually a clear career structure in hotels, which is how staff aspire to get on after they notch up the requisite training and qualifications.

Service has not generally been itemised on restaurant bills since 1993, after unions representing restaurant staff signed an agreement with employers to regulate salaries across the industry. So your waiter is not on a minimum wage (Sweden does not even have one), has probably undergone formal and sometimes prolonged training at a specialist vocational college, has a sense of pride in his or her work, and faith in the future. Therefore they do not want a tip, let alone expect it – with the implication that their living is dependent on your caprice, rather than on the right to receive a living wage.

It’s not quite Barcelona in 1936, but rather a legacy of the country’s idealistic, egalitarian past and its surviving consensus approach to industrial relations.

David Crouch


One response

  1. The death rate among preschool children in the UK is almost double that of Sweden, with social inequalities being partly to blame, according to researchers.

    A study, published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, compared the UK with Sweden because the Scandinavian country has one of the lowest child death rates, a measure considered by Unicef to be a barometer of children’s health.

    Sweden also has levels of economic and social development comparable with the UK, free healthcare at the point of access and spends the same proportion of GDP – about 8% – on healthcare.

    The researchers found there were 614 deaths per 100,000 of the under-fives population in the UK, compared with 328 in Sweden. The primary causes of death in the UK were problems associated with premature birth, congenital abnormalities, and infections, with the mortality rate for the first of these factors being 13 times higher than in Sweden.

    The study’s co-author Imti Choonara, emeritus professor at Nottingham University’s academic unit of child health, said: “The major cause of death is prematurity, and social economic inequalities are one of the causes [of prematurity]. A society with large inequalities inevitably results in worse health outcomes.”

    The paper, published on Thursday, emphasised that the high mortality rate from prematurity in the UK – 138.5 per 100,000 preschool children compared with 10.1 in Sweden – was not a reflection of the quality of neonatal intensive care but of “the adverse social determinants of health in the UK that result in a large number of preterm births”. The premature birth rate has remained stable in Sweden while it has been rising in the UK.

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