Poverty on the rise in Sweden amid inflation, energy crisis
According to an official, Sweden is really experiencing a poverty problem, and though not many talk about it, "it’s absolutely gotten worse this year."
The Guardian reported on Monday that Sweden was starting to experience a poverty problem in light of the current energy crisis and soaring food prices sweeping across the EU.
The matter is of concern because Sweden ranks among the most generous in terms of public welfare and its abundant green energy sources which should, in theory, render the country more resilient to economic shocks.
According to Johan Rindevall, the executive of Matmissionen, a chain of supermarkets in Sweden that sells donated food and products by producers and retailers, Sweden is really experiencing a poverty problem, and though not many talk about it, "it’s absolutely got worse this year," he says.
The company owns eight stores across the country dedicated to helping the poorest by selling them food and products at low prices.
It also aims to limit food waste and train new workers in the job market.
"Our focus groups show there’s a real stigma around food handouts. So we decided to let them buy what they want, albeit at a very steep discount … It’s just more empowering that way," Rindevall says. "People want things to be as normal as possible."
Certain individuals who report earning a monthly income of less than 11,200 kronor in pay or benefits can register a slot to purchase goods at the lowest prices.
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The demand for the offer has in recent months been increasing, the report says. Some reforms in Sweden's welfare system have caused wealth inequalities to increase between the rich and poor.
Over the fall season, inflation has increased by about 8%.
Despite that 75% of Sweden's electricity comes from hydropower, as well as nuclear and wind sources, incomes have not escaped the bloc-wide impact of soaring energy prices.
While the price of butter has increased by 25%, that of meat increased by 24% and that of cheese by 22%.
Around 90-95% of purchases at Matmissionen are by members, Rindevall says, adding that families often buy around 300 kronor of food per week.
Poverty is also likely to affect poor people's nutrition due to changes in their diets.
Matmissionen’s membership rose from 7,200 in January to more than 14,700 by the end of October.
40% of new members are families with children, both singles and couples.
"Inflation at these rates mean we’re seeing many, many more people than ever before. Some have started coming in saying they don’t qualify as members, but can’t afford to buy the food they need anywhere else," he says.
During the 1990s, only 7% of Sweden's population was in relative poverty. That share is now estimated to have reached over 14%.
"Sweden may still have a good safety net, but it maybe isn’t reactive enough to sudden, big cost of living changes," says Rindevall.
"The only positive thing in all this is that now so many people are talking about impossible food prices that there’s no longer the same stigma in not being able to afford to feed your family. It’s no longer a taboo."
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