The largest sector in Sweden is service industries, which
employ 80 per cent of the working population (2016). From
the mid-1800s, the industry in Sweden gradually took over
agriculture as the dominant industry, and the industry
continued to grow until the mid-1970s, before the service
industries took over.
Ever since the 1930s, the principle of full employment
has prevailed in the Swedish economy. During the 1980s, this
became more difficult to achieve, partly because of high
inflation and low economic growth rates. Several of Sweden's
most important industries (the shipyards, the steel industry
and others) had significant marketing difficulties in the
world market; the country also had high price increases and
several devaluations. Poorer competitiveness led to rising
unemployment and a pressure to restructure business.
A crisis plan was drawn up to increase new investment and
exports and reduce inflation and unemployment. The economic
crisis reached its peak in 1992, with strong pressure on the
Swedish krona and new dramatic tightening. In order to meet
the demands of the EU, the deficits in the state budget and
foreign debt also had to be reduced. Tax reforms, the
privatization of government activities and the reduction of
public expenditure were among the instruments.
From 1993, there were signs of improvement in the Swedish
economy, with a current account surplus, lower budget
deficits and increased investments. After a period of sharp
reduction in public spending, these were again increased in
1998. At that time, unemployment figures were also on the
After a few years of positive economic development, the
economy stagnated as a result of the turmoil in the world
economy after September 11, 2001. A decline in high
technology led to large capital flows out of the country and
contributed to the strong weakening of the Swedish krona
against the US dollar and the euro. Rising unemployment and
continued high absenteeism led to increased government
spending, while the deteriorating world economy led to
reduced economic activity in the country and lower
government revenues. During 2004, the economic situation
improved, and the following year the budget deficits turned
into a surplus.
The international financial crisis that began in the fall
of 2008 also affected the Swedish economy noticeably; in
2009, GDP fell by 5 per cent. Thanks to an already tight
fiscal policy and room for government stimulus after several
years of budget surpluses, Sweden became one of the best
performing countries during the crisis. From 1994 to 2015,
Sweden had a surplus on the trade balance abroad each year.
The trade surplus has been declining since the beginning of
the 2000s, and in 2016, 2017 and 2018 the trade balance was
negative. Unemployment has long been at a higher level than
in Norway. In 2017, the unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent,
while that of young people under 25 was 19 per cent.
Gross national income (GNI) is $ 53,900 per capita
(2018). Agriculture (including forestry and fisheries)
contributed just over one percent of GDP and two percent of
employment in the same year, while industry (including
mining) contributed 25 percent of GDP and 12 percent of
employment, and service industries accounted for the
remaining. One third of the workforce is employed in the
The natural production conditions in Sweden vary
considerably, both in terms of climate and soil. The growing
season is only 4-5 months in Norrland, while it is 8-9
months in Skåne. The soil is mostly poor in the north with
lots of moraine gravel and marsh; it is significantly better
below the marine border in central Sweden. However, the best
agricultural area in Sweden, with the highest yield, is
southwestern Skåne's moraine clay soil.
After 1950 there has been a significant closure of
marginal agricultural land, with a concentration of
agriculture to the most productive areas in the country. The
proportion of farms with less than 500 acres of agricultural
land was sharply reduced. The reduction in the country's
agricultural area occurred especially in the 1950s and
1960s, and to a greater extent in the forest areas in
central Sweden and in Norrland. There has also been an
extensive merger into larger utility units. Over the past 40
years the number of farms has been halved.
The mechanization of agriculture has come a long way, so
that productivity is maintained despite less agricultural
land and fewer farmers. The total agricultural area today is
approx. 7 per cent of the land area, of which just over 80
per cent is arable land, and the rest is nature meadow and
Barley is grown all over the country, oats especially in
the west and in the forest, and wheat in the plain in
central Sweden and in Skåne. The ridge and building area has
declined sharply. There is also considerable potato growing.
Sugar beets are grown substantially in Skåne, and oil growth
is grown in Skåne and central Sweden as part of the growth
These areas also have a lot of animal husbandry;
livestock products form an important part of Swedish
agriculture. Animal husbandry has also been made more
efficient by the fact that fewer farms use livestock, while
the livestock farms have increased the number of animals and
are more specialized with one animal species. The largest
income in livestock farming comes from milk production.
In southern Sweden, there is considerable meat production
with large production of chicken and pork. In Gotland, sheep
farming is of great importance. Reindeer husbandry is found
especially in Norrbotten, but also in Västerbotten and
Jämtland. The most important agricultural products, such as
dairy products, meat, cereals and potatoes, are mainly for
Sweden is one of Europe's most wooded countries, with a
productive forest area of 226,000 km2, 52
percent of the land area. Parts of Skåne, Halland and
Blekinge are covered by warm-cut deciduous forest (mostly
beech); spruce, pine and birch dominate. The best and most
productive forest areas are located north of Vänern, in
Värmland and Dalarna, with more than twice as fast growth as
the forests further north. Of a standing cubic mass of 3.2
million m 3 spruce constitutes 43 percent, pine
39 percent, birch 12 percent and other deciduous trees 6
percent. Annual growth is 120 million m 3, of
which approx. 2/3 harvested.
A large part of Sweden's forests is owned by large
companies. 25 per cent is owned by privately owned
companies, while 14 per cent is owned by the state-owned
company Sveaskog. A further 3 percent is directly owned by
Forestry forms the basis for the wood-based industry,
with the production of paper, wood pulp and wood products.
Of a net harvest of 73 million m 3 in 2017, 37
million m 3 went to sawmills, 28 million m 3
to the pulp industry and 8 million m 3 to energy
In 2018, 212,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish were
caught. The most important catch areas are the North Sea,
the Kattegat, the Skagerrak and the Baltic Sea. About. 2/3
of the catch is collected in the Baltic Sea. The main fish
species are herring (flooding) and cod. Streaming is a
herring fish native to the Baltic Sea.
Particularly shrimp and sea crabs are caught by
shellfish; the most important catch area is along the west
coast. Freshwater fishing also has a certain significance,
including salmon, eel and trout.
Mining has long been an important branch of Swedish
business. Although mining's importance to the national
economy has diminished, mining and metal industry still
account for 12 per cent of Swedish exports (2013). Sweden is
the largest mining country in the EU.
In the 16th and 16th centuries, Falun copper mine was the
largest in Europe. In the 18th century, Sweden was a leader
in iron production, based on mining of almost
phosphorus-free ores in a number of places in the middle
part of the country, especially in Bergslagen. First began
the exploitation of the ore deposits at Grängesberg in
Bergslagen, and then of the enormously rich deposits in
Kiruna - Gällivare. Iron ore production has slowed in recent
years, among other things, Dannemora mines were closed down
in 1992, and production is now concentrated to LKAB's mines
in Kiruna and Malmberget. Total production of the enriched
and pelleted iron ore amounted to 29 million tonnes in 2014.
About. 80 per cent goes to exports, most of them by rail
over the port of Narvik. LKAB has processing plants, among
others in Svappavaara.
The decline in iron ore production, which started in the
latter part of the 1970s, was primarily caused by foreign
competition. Production of quality steel has rich traditions
in Sweden, and a large part is exported. The largest iron
and steel plants are located in Bergslagen and Värmland:
Avesta and Hagfors, among others. Large works have also been
erected in the ore ports of Luleå and Oxelösund.
The extraction of sulphide ores is of great importance.
Large quantities of copper ore, lead, zinc, gold and silver
are extracted from the sulphide ore mines. The mining
company Boliden Mineral accounts for most of the extraction
of sulfide ores in Sweden. The largest mines are Aitik at
Gällivare (Europe's largest copper mine), the Skellefteå
field (copper ore, sulfur coffin, gold, silver and arsenic)
with a number of mines, Askersund and Hedemora
municipalities. Sweden has approx. 15 percent of the world's
The most important industrial sector by production value
is the workshop industry, which in Sweden is very
heterogeneous and comprises the production of transport
equipment, metal products, machines, electrical engineering
products and instruments. In total, the workshop industry
accounts for approx. 50 percent of the industry's total
turnover and export value.
In the engineering industry, the production of transport
equipment and metal products is the most important.
Previously, motor vehicles (and parts) were the largest
single item in foreign trade, with Volvo, Saab and Scania as
the largest companies. During the international financial
crisis after 2008, the automotive industry has been hard
pressed, and from 2010/2012 Volvo and Saab's personal car
divisions were taken over by Chinese owners. Swedish-owned
Volvo AB today produces trucks and buses, while in 2008
Scania was acquired by Volkswagen.
Sweden has traditionally been a leading shipbuilding
country, with large shipyards in Gothenburg, Malmö,
Uddevalla and Landskrona. Foreign competition in the 1970s,
however, led to the close closure of the industry during the
1980s, with the loss of over 20,000 jobs. The shipbuilding
industry still operates mainly in Gothenburg and military
production (submarines) in Karlskrona.
The machine industry is most strongly represented in the
largest cities; also in Eskilstuna (knives, instruments),
Sandviken (tools), Karlskoga (Bofors with weapons and
defense equipment), Munkfors (thin plates) and Huskvarna
(Electrolux household appliances). Among Sweden's hardware
manufacturers are some of the country's largest industrial
companies. Several have significant operations abroad as
The electrotechnical industry is an important part of
production and export; the industrial groups ABB (heavier
electrical engineering equipment) and Husqvarna AB dominate
the industry. The electrical industry is spread throughout
the country, but with particularly large production in the
Stockholm area. Stoves, transformers, generators and
equipment for hydropower plants and nuclear power plants are
The electronics industry is a relatively small but
important industry that is growing, with the development of
communication equipment, optics, processors and computers.
Among the instrument companies are LM Ericsson
(telecommunications), Elektra and Mölnlycke with medical
technology, Hasselblad (cameras) and Saab Instruments.
Sweden has traditionally large production of wood
products and wood processing products, with sawmill, wood
pulp, cellulose and paper mills, furniture production and
more. The sawmill industry is particularly localized to the
outlets of the Norrland rivers, and to Dalarna and Värmland.
The wood and furniture industry is concentrated in Småland,
as well as Vestergötland and Skåne.
The graphic industry is particularly concentrated in the
Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö areas, and the same applies
to parts of the food and beverage industry. The food
industry is dominated by the companies of the agricultural
and consumer cooperatives (Lantmännen, Scan, Arla and AAK),
but also by subsidiaries of international large companies.
The clothing industry is represented in the largest
cities; Borås is known for the production of knitwear and
woolen goods. Textiles and clothing have had a long period
of sharp decline. In 1950, the industry had 115,000
employees, in 1995 just under 12,000. Later, however, the
industry has experienced some growth.
The chemical and petrochemical industry has major
petroleum refineries in Gothenburg, Stenungsund and
Nynäshamn; chemical factories are located in Helsingborg,
Gothenburg, Lysekil (Scanraff), Örebro and Stockholm. Among
large companies are Akzo Nobel (color and paper chemicals)
and AGA (gas production). In recent years, the
pharmaceutical industry has largely been taken over by
foreign owners. Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer in 2003 and
later closed down, while in 1999 Astra merged with British
Zeneca to AstraZeneca.
Swedish foreign trade has a very large scope. The EU
countries constitute the largest and most important market,
and in 2018 accounted for 60 per cent of Sweden's exports
and 70 per cent of imports. Germany, the United Kingdom and
Denmark are the main trading partners in the EU; US and
Norway among non-member countries.
Some important export goods are means of transport,
electrical machinery, wood and wood pulp, chemicals and
paper. Fuel, machinery and transport (and equipment), food,
textiles and chemicals are important import goods. See other
Foreign trade as a percentage by country (2018).
- Figures from 2013
Exports by main product groups (2013).
|Chemicals and related products (including
medicines etc. 62%)
|Petroleum and petroleum products
|Wood products, pulp and paper
|Ore and metal
|Machinery and metal products
|Electronics and telecoms
Transport and Communications
Sweden's first railway was opened in 1856 between Örebro
and Ervalla, which is a few miles further north. By then the
construction of a railway network between the major cities
was already underway. In 1862 the section opened
Stockholm-Gothenburg. Its greatest spread was the railway
network in the mid-1930s with 17,000 km. After
rationalization and closure of unprofitable stretches in the
1960s, the railway length has stabilized at approx. 11,000
km, of which 90 per cent are electrified.
Passenger traffic has increased in recent years. Most of
the passenger transport is carried out by SJ (Statens
Järnvägar), while about twenty private companies account for
a significant share in a market that is currently completely
deregulated. In 2014, 10 per cent of passenger transport
went on track. Freight transport declined for many years,
but stabilized at around 55 million tonnes from the
The road network
The road network is well developed, especially in the
central and southern parts of the country. Over 70 percent
have a fixed deck. There are a total of 1920 km of motorways
(2012), mainly in southern Sweden. Northern Sweden has only
minor sections with highway standards. Road and rail
connection (Øresund connection) between Malmö and Copenhagen
was completed in 2000.
Civil aviation is well developed; the leading airline is
SAS. Arlanda is by far the largest airport north of
Stockholm, followed by Landvetter at Gothenburg and Bromma
in Stockholm. For southern Sweden, Copenhagen Airport is
In 2017, the merchant fleet consisted of 304 ships (100
gross tonnage and above) with a total tonnage of 2.6 million
gross tonnes, the majority of which were dry cargo vessels.
The most important ports are Gothenburg, Helsingborg,
Stockholm, Malmö, Norrköping, Gävle and Ystad. There is a
large export over Gothenburg harbor of, among other things,
cars, iron and steel products, chemicals, wood pulp and
There are a number of ferry connections with abroad,
including Stockholm and Helsinki, Mariehamn, Turku
(Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), St. Petersburg (Russia), Riga
(Latvia) and Klaipeda (Lithuania), between Helsingborg and
Helsingør (Denmark)), between Trelleborg and Travemünde and
Sassnitz (Germany). Malmö is connected with Travemünde.