In 2019, the employment rate in Sweden was 68.3 percent, which was four percent higher compared to the years after the financial crisis back in 2008. Although Sweden has one of the highest employment rates among women globally, Swedish men are still employed more than Swedish women. In recent years, however, the gap has grown smaller as the employment rate generally increased among both genders. Likewise, the gap between male and female salaries was also narrowing over this period. In 2019, women’s average earnings as a percentage of men’s reached 96 percent, when compared in terms of occupation, age, sector, and working hours.
Most of the working population in Sweden belong to the private sector, counting close to 3.1 million employees in 2019. While the public sector strongly expanded up until the 1970’s, employment in the private sector steadily increased from the 1990’s and onwards. Occupying more than 80 percent of the workforce, the service sector accounted for the highest number of employees in Sweden. More specifically, most people were employed in financial operations and business services, reaching over 848 thousand employees in 2019.
Not surprisingly, the highest average monthly salaries are found in financial institutions and insurance companies. In 2019, employees in this sector could earn 52,600 Swedish kronor on average every month. For higher level banking, finance, and insurance managers, the average monthly wage even reached 143,300 Swedish kronor the same year. That is a quantum leap when compared to the average salary for Swedes with a tertiary education.
While employment and unemployment developed positively over the past decade, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) poses a new threat to the labor market in Sweden. As of July 2020, the unemployment rate reached 9.4 percent, compared to 6.8 percent in July the previous year. Some industries particularly suffered from the crisis, and notably employees in the manufacturing as well as the hotel and restaurant industry faced dismissals in the wake of the crisis.